C.K. Garabed: ‘Medz Yeghern’ Revisited

When President Obama used the term Medz Yeghern to characterize the Armenian Genocide, I, along with many others, felt betrayed because he did not use the word genocide as was expected based upon his presidential campaign promises.

I hereby frankly confess my ignorance as I was not familiar with the term Medz Yeghern, and subsequently consulted various dictionaries to ascertain its meaning. What I found was that it was defined variously depending on the dictionary I used. The older ones define it as Great Crime, misdemeanor, offense, rascality; the more modern ones as Great crime, atrocity, murder.

Still, it wasn’t until I exchanged views with Dr. Dennis Papazian [founding director of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn] that I was able to develop another perspective of the matter.

I learned from him that “just as the Jews used the word Shoah (an ancient term with a religious connotation) as a proper noun for their genocide, and are quite content with it, highly educated Armenians have used Medz Yeghern (another ancient term with a religious connotation) as a proper noun and were quite content with it. Hence, the official name of the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan is Medz Yeghern Houshartsan. The monument is not Dzidzernagapert. The site is named that, not the monument. 

“People in Armenia know and use the term Medz Yeghern far more than people in the diaspora, who hardly know the term at all. My own translation would be the ‘Great Armenian Cataclysm’. You know that there are not always exact equivalent words in two languages because of subtle meanings and tones, so the literary translator tries to find equivalent meanings. A cataclysm is a final destruction, the end of a world, which is how the Armenians viewed their catastrophe.”

The real lesson I learned from Dr. Papazian was that we need not have viewed the president’s remarks as an evasion, but rather as an affirmation. Most people use Shoah and Holocaust interchangeably, and most Jews would be shocked if Obama were to use the term Jewish Genocide instead. Furthermore, the Turks’ initial reaction was one of anger as they knew, probably more than most Armenians, the true significance of the term Medz Yeghern. But when they saw the dissatisfaction expressed by many Armenian writers, they concluded that the use of the term was not objectionable. How ironic.

Just suppose that we Armenian Americans were to applaud the president for using our word for the Armenian Genocide. Can you imagine the fits the Turks would have, and the quandary the president’s advisors would be in? If it really turned out that they had cautioned him about using the term genocide, could they now declare that it was not what he really meant? Not likely; and they would thus be forced to join our team. To improve on an old saying, “If you can’t beat them, make them join you.”

CK Garabed

CK Garabed

Weekly Columnist
C.K. Garabed (a.k.a. Charles Kasbarian) has been active in the Armenian Church and Armenian community organizations all his life. As a writer and editor, he has been a keen observer of, and outspoken commentator on, political and social matters affecting Armenian Americans. He has been a regular contributor to the Armenian Reporter and the AGBU Literary Quarterly, “ARARAT.” For the last 30 years, Garabed has been a regular contributor to the Armenian Weekly. He produces a weekly column called “Uncle Garabed's Notebook,” in which he presents an assortment of tales, anecdotes, poems, riddles, and trivia; for the past 10 years, each column has contained a deconstruction of an Armenian surname. He believes his greatest accomplishment in life, and his contribution to the Armenian nation, has been the espousing of Aghavni, and the begetting of Antranig and Lucine.
CK Garabed

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  1. With all due respect, it is incomprehensible why Mr. Garabed would set aside the clear meanings for yeghern that he cites in Armenian dictionaries–crime, murder, atrocity, etc.– in favor of ‘cataclysm’. There are only two explanations: wishful thinking about President Obama’s intentions and a felt need to make the Armenian term consistent with Shoah.
    On the first, if the President thought he was saying “genocide” by using the term, he wouldn’t have used it. Or he just would have said “Armenian Genocide” in plain English. He obviously thought he was saying something less than genocide. This was made possible by a plethora of sources conveying the idea that the term means calamity or cataclysm, as Mr. Garabed and Mr. Papazian urge. Referring to the Armenian dictionaries again, it is clear that there is a big difference between a crime and a cataclysm. A crime has an author, a cataclysm may or may not. Our ancestors clearly meant a crime, an atrocity, a great evil, not just something unfortunate. I think we should give them credit for that. They called it what it was.
    Which brings me to the second point, making the term consistent with Shoah. The Armenian Genocide was the first. Therefore Armenians were the first to give their genocide a name. That name does not have to conform to what followed with another people in another part of the world. To think so is looking at history backwards.
    Since President Obama chose to use an Armenian term instead of saying what he meant in plain English, he has made it a serious issue in international parlance. It doesn’t matter what is “in his heart”. What matters is what he says or doesn’t say. It is therefore crucially important for “Medz Yeghern” to have a clear and consistent translation into English. Great Crime is the most accurate and conservative definition one can give it (it could also be Great Atrocity). Cataclysm does not serve.

  2. I can see the author’s point.  Thank you Mr. Garabed. As an Armenian speaking Armenian we always used the phrase Medz Yeghern to mean the Genocide. Even today I hear Medz Yeghern used much more frequently than Tzeghasbanutyun when referring to the Armenian Genocide.  I would love to hear other Diasporan Armenians’ experience on this.

  3. Too much fuss has been done about the use of “Medz Yeghern” since His Holiness John Paul II used it, for the first time by a foreign dignitary I believe, when visited Armenia in the late 1990s. You can stretch it as much as you want, but the fact is that it means “Great Crime” (or whatever synonym of “crime” you may want to find) and nothing else. It is synonymous with “Medz Vojir” (a term also used in the years after the Genocide; Aram Andonian gave this title to his book in Armenian, the original to the “Naim Bey” book), and yeghernakordz means exactly the same as vojrakordz, namely, “criminal.” Neither “cataclism,” nor “catastrophe” or “calamity” (the one preferred by Turkish writers, I wonder who was the Armenian author of this mistranslation) will do justice to its meaning. 
    A couple of corrections:
    — The monument to the Genocide in Yerevan is called Medz Yegherni hushartzan (“monument to the Great Crime”; see the homonymous entry in the Armenian Abridged Encyclopedia, vol. III, Yerevan, 1999, p. 666) or Medz Yegherni zoheri hushahamalir (“memorial complex to the victims of the Great Crime). By the way, the museum founded in the complex in 1995 is called Hayots tseghasbanutian institut-tangaran (“Institute-Museum of the Genocide of the Armenians”).
    — It is incorrect that Armenians use this term in Armenian much more than in the Diaspora. If anybody wants to imply that English-speaking or non-Armenian reading Armenian-Americans were almost ignorant of the term until Presidents Bush and Obama “reminded” them of its existence, so be it. But the Armenian-American Anglophone community is not the entire Diaspora. Open any Armenian newspaper in Armenian from Lebanon to Argentina and from the United States (yes, the U.S.!) to France and you will find the word profusely used for many, many decades until… this same moment.
    Mr. Garabed has a point there: I would like to think, even to the risk of uttering a heresy to some readers, that it is ironic that President Obama used the word that we, Armenians, use as SYNONYM of “Armenian Genocide.” His intention was/is just to avoid the use of a term charged with legal consequences and replace it with something less “offensive” to Turkey. But the fact that, instead of using any kind of term in English, he has chosen to use that particular Armenian term makes it impossible for him to go back. In 2009 our activists should have been a little more aware of  the meanings of our words and start to trumpet the fact that Obama had tacitly recognized the Genocide by using the same word WE use. Instead, they chose to ignore their own language and reject the word like it had come from some arcane dictionary. Ironic again…

  4. The following regards Vartan Matiossian’s comments. His first paragraph sets the record very straight: the name Medz Yeghern means Great Crime (or its equivalents) pure and simple. There is no excuse for giving it a fuzzier meaning. The words cataclysm, catastrophe, etc. dovetail very well with the Turkish state’s well-known version of events. The term Great Crime causes a hiccup, to say the least. That’s one sure sign that it was well chosen by our very wise predecessors.
    Accounting for President Obama’s motives in using the Armenian name is a much more difficult to nail. But certain points are clear:
    1. The April 24th Statement was to be a communication with the American people, not just Armenians.
    2. The name M. Y. has almost no meaning to Americans. As we can see, even many Armenians are unclear about its meaning.
    3. Candidate Obama had made an explicit promise to be the President who would say “Armenian Genocide”.
    4. For well known reasons, mostly political and strategic, the President couldn’t say “Armenian Genocide”.
    5. It was a serious matter to break such an important and widely publicized promise. He needed to do something to soften this obvious breach of trust.
    Someone suggested M. Y. as a way out of this. It was a name used by Armenians (before the word genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin) to designate the government orchestrated act of exterminating them. Since ‘genocide’ was not a defined crime until the Second World War era, the Armenian name M. Y. could mean something very horrible but not genocide in the strictest legal sense of the word. Perfect. There was no shortage of Armenian specialists and Turkish commentators ready to define the term as calamity, catastrophe, etc., terms that conveyed a lot of emotion but little specific meaning. And now we find Armenians who are grateful to the President for using their language!

  5. Growing up in Iran we learned in school, and family the term “Medz Yeghern”. The term was solely used to refer to the events of 1915.  If anyone uttered the word “Yeghern” (they didn’t even have to say “Medz” ), it was VERY CLEAR what they were referring to. And the term was used ONLY for events of 1915 and nothing else. So there was never any ambiguity. When the commission of a crime is reported in Armenian language mass media you will NEVER see it referred to as a “Yeghern” is committed.  And “vojir”, and “Yeghern” have never been interchangeable in Armenian.  And I agree with the other commenters that it was the stubbornness (or more like the stupidity) of those who are the loudest and have a weekly, or an occasional column in an Armenian paper that had to disagree out of their ignorance and not take advantage of President Obama’s usage of the word “Medz Yeghern”.  As the saying in Armenian goes: “inch vor kashoom enk, mer khelkits enk kashoom” (roughly translated to “whatever hardship befalls us (individuals) is the fault of our own brains”.

  6. I can vividly remember, when I was but a child, the numerous Saturday evenings when neighbors and relatives would gather at someone’s house for Armenian coffee and a rock hard deep red candy that would burn your throat if consumed too quickly. Everyone worked hard at their day time jobs and didn’t have  very much discretionary money for entertainment, therefore, the numerous visits to each others houses. After a few songs or recitations spurred by the insistant gathering, they would invariably segue into Yergir stories and how they escaped death at the hands of the Turks. NEVER ONCE did I ever hear the term “Medz Yeghern” . It was always refered to as the “Chart”( heavy on the R) meaning slaughter or “Ak-sos” which I never dared ask the meaning of. These were mostly people from Malatya, Arapkir, Van, Erzurum, Izmir and Kharpert. We lived in an Armenian neighborhood in NYC’s lower east side, walking distance to 3 Armenian churches. After 6 decades on this earth I guess all of those survivors, and myself, had to be corrected and taught Armenian by a “SEV” president who can’t seem to keep his word to our people. Maybe next time he’ll say it in “Kur-a-par” the American public won’t have a chance of understanding that either!

  7. The button line is  Obama promised to used the word GEnocide, he should start using the word Genocide and not any other word he believes will keep  him in good relations with Turkey… End of story…


    The result of all definitions lead killing the genes of our clever people



    Gene Vanishers

    When you vanish children,
    It is genocide.
    You are vanishing the gene,
    Vanishing DNA.
    You, stopped the growth
    To reach mature age.
    To speak
    To express
    To write
    To create
    To demonstrate
    You are a “vanisher.”
    Do not escape.
    You vanished
    A human,
    A soul,
    Stopped a heartbeat
    Never can return to life
    Yet to Seed and Laugh
    No more can Touch- Feel
    No more, can see
    Smile-Talk -Feed
    No life to breathe
    No Love to Creed
    Think about what you have done,
    Denial is inhuman.
    Confirm what you did,
    Clearly admit.

    Clear your insight.
    The day soon will sight,
    You will disappear.
    See, with conscience clear!

  9. Quote from Mr. Matiossian: ‘Mr. Garabed has a point there. . . .  the fact that, instead of using any kind of term in English, he has chosen to use that particular Armenian term makes it impossible for him to go back.

  10. Readers’ comments are highly appreciated, as dialogue is the key to greater understanding. One countercomment may be in order. The terms Holocaust and Shoah did not appear full blown immediately following the Nuremberg trials, but were carefullyinculcated and nurtured in the popular consciousness in the ensuing years until they became part of everyone’s vocabulary. The same can be done with Medz Yeghern. Instead of permitting ourselves to be enslaved by words, let us become the master of them.

  11. Quote from Mr. Matiossian: ‘Mr. Garabed has a point there. . . .  the fact that, instead of using any kind of term in English, he has chosen to use that particular Armenian term makes it impossible for him to go back.’
    Go back from WHAT? That is my question. Last year in an open letter to the President, Harout Sassounian said the following: ‘You may want to know that “Meds Yeghern” does not mean genocide; it means “Great Calamity.” Armenians used that term before the word “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin in the 1940’s. “Genocide” in Armenian is “Tseghasbanoutyoun,” which is a much more precise term than “Meds Yeghern,” in case you decide to use it in the future.’ Thereby, the primary meaning of Great Crime is thrown out the window and there is a thundering chorus from Turkish and Armenian columnists urging us to understand the term as cataclysm or catastrophe (for which, obviously, there are Armenian names, but Medz Yeghern is the most important one). This is what Turkey has been saying along. And what will the President say some day if he is asked what his understanding of the term M. Y. is? That is the question. In my view, he should never have been given the opportunity to use the term and wouldn’t have if he was not persuaded it meant something less than genocide by people saying cataclysm, catastrophe, disaster, tragedy, calamity over and over again. Is there no such thing as defending the integrity of the language?

  12. Quote from Mr. Garabed, “Instead of permitting ourselves to be enslaved by words, let us become the master of them.”  I appreciate the peace-making spirit behind this counsel, but I would respectfully submit that the quickest way to become the slaves of words is to forget their meaning, and the way to become their master is to remember what they truly mean and use them accordingly.

  13. Why a president should use an original phrase “Medz Yeghern”
    He did not understand
    Did any one ask him
    And who thought him that phrase
    He must have been an Armenian.
    Obama is a lawyer
    Before he is a president.
    He trusted the person who wrote
    That piece of  speech.
    It is a real disaster
    For a man who knows the law
    And says new phrase 
    He is not fully aware!

    “Every language has a soul 
    It is impossible to translate that soul!”

    I heard always ‘Chart’,
    Which in my opinion means massacre or slay

    Medz Yeghern: Huge disaster

  14. After I wrote above
    I read this poem by  Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
    Can be applied for our case  in many ways
    But ours is a disaster and never a flower
    Is to say that people can’t modify easily their attitudes.
    Might play games to avoid criminals’  scimitars.

    When they understood the problem they defined Genocide
    and not only huge disaster,
    because they wanted to vanish a race.
    So the phrase of Madz Yeghern is no longer acceptable and
    Utterly refused.

    If he departs and turns to law
    He will understand
    What he said
    Was unfair
    For a race who respected him
    And gave theirs bleeding voices 
    from theirs cavernous…

    A race those were used as respected slaves
    Taxed heavily named Ahl Aldema, Gower , Kuffar
    Then genocided and vanished
    Till this date .

    Our Case… should combine all nasty words
    Massacres, Disasters, Slay …

    The real term should be genocide
    May be after a century
    Will be defined by a new terminology ….

    A new gene will appear
    To change all the names

    Why P. Obama believed in changes
    And he changed
    Why he shouldn’t change our unbelivable case from
    Huge Disaster (Medz Yeghern) to Genocide!
    I need real answer
    From his lawful place
    Why…Why …and endlessly Why!


    The Flower

    Once in a golden hour
    I cast to earth a seed.
    Up there came a flower,
    The people said, a weed.

    To and fro they went
    Thro’ my garden bower,
    And muttering discontent
    Cursed me and my flower.

    Then it grew so tall
    It wore a crown of light,
    But thieves from o’er the wall
    Stole the seed by night.

    Sow’d it far and wide
    By every town and tower,
    Till all the people cried,
    “Splendid is the flower!”

    Read my little fable:
    He that runs may read.
    Most can raise the flowers now,
    For all have got the seed.

    And some are pretty enough,
    And some are poor indeed;
    And now again the people
    Call it but a weed.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson

  15. Unfortunately, I think this discussion shows the cavernous distance between American Armenians and their counterparts around the world, of whom they seem to know very little.  In our Kharpertsi household and community, the word ‘genocide’ never surfaced from the lips of our ancient relatives…however, the word ‘massacres’ was the word of choice used in English when the events of 1915 were mentioned, but in Armenian, the entire experience was always termed as ‘spiurka’, or the Dispersion, the deportation, or the exile. 

  16. Let’s bear in mind that the word holocaust originally meant, a sacrificial offering the whole of which is consumed by fire. Then it was dressed up with a capital H, and made to mean, destruction, especially by fire, of large numbers of human beings. Scarcely anyone uses the word with the lower case meaning anymore. Is this considered tampering with the language, which is something Armenians are loathe to do with Medz Yeghern?

  17. Although the term Medtz Yeghern is not a legally accurate interpretation of the Armenian Genocide, it is a somewhat colloquial reference to the Genocide used by some within Armenian circles, but the lack of semantic exactitude by a Columbia and Harvard Law School graduate hardly goes unnoticed without a shrewd calculated political assessment. This is unquestionably true especially when dealing with a country unable to accept the reality of historical truth and particularly when Turkey is so fervently involved (diplomatically, financially and legally) in trying to conceal, contradict and cloak the Armenian Genocide.
    Did Obama promise to recognize the Medtz Yeghern? No, he promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Do you think Armenians would have overwhelmingly supported/funded Obama’s campaign and voted for him en masse if he had promised to recognize the Medtz Yeghern? Highly unlikely then and definitely not today or hereafter. Lets just say that any candidate who makes a campaign promise to recognize the Medtz Yeghern will face their own Medtz Yeghern come election time…
    Any futile attempts to mollify Americans with deliberately vague and inaccurate characterizations of the Armenian Genocide only serve to hinder the fight against future genocides and their denial. The term Metz Yeghern in Armenian is not a direct LEGALLY accurate translation of the appropriate English term – genocide – used to accurately characterize the Armenian Genocide.
    If you examine Obama’s statement made during his campaign from January 18, 2008 (http://www.barackobama.com/2008/01/19/barack_obama_on_the_importance.php ) , you will find two very interesting and telling facts. First, there are 11 references specifically citing the word – genocide – within 5 paragraphs of one letter. Second, there is not one mention made of either of the following terms: Medz Yeghern, Հայոց ցեղասպանություն (Hayoc’ c’eġaspanut’yun), Holocaust, Tseghaspanotyoon, Shoa or what have you.
    Now, compare Obama’s letter above (referencing genocide 11 times) with his commemorative statement as President in April 2009 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Statement-of-President-Barack-Obama-on-Armenian-Remembrance-Day/ ) and April 2010 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-barack-obama-armenian-remembrance-day ).  As an Armenian, the results are hardly surprising. Not one mention of the word genocide in any context and two references made about the Meds Yeghern. Coincidence? Hardly. Reacting to threats of a paper tiger…much more likely. Just like many astute observers, I’m sure many of you don’t find these facts merely coincidental, or even inconsequential but rather interpret Obama’s remembrance letters to be downright insulting and quite hypocritical to say the least.
    Now for a comparison to address the Holocaust/Shoah example. On April 11, 2010, the White House released their annual Statement by the President on Holocaust Remembrance Day (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-holocaust-remembrance-day ). Holocaust is mentioned three times. Moreover, three important words are presented in this exact logical order – genocide, justice and peace, each written once. The word Shoah is not specifically mentioned. Jjuxtaposing the titles alone is very revealing. The Presidents statement on the Holocaust actually mentions the – Holocaust – the reason for the letter, whereas the statement on the Armenian Genocide vaguely identifies an Armenian Remembrance Day without identifying the specific act they supposedly remember!!! Anyone want to take a stab at why President Obama just didn’t leave out the word genocide altogether in his Holocaust statement and refer to it merely as the Holocaust/Shoah? Purposely neglecting to include the word genocide written in English or Armenian is offensive to me and very far from acceptable to our community.
    For another very clear example attesting to the Presidents untenable double standard to our cause alone take a look at his statement released this year commemorating the Rwandan Genocide on April 7, 2010. (http://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-16th-anniversary-genocide-rwanda ) The President mentions the word genocide 3 times within the one paragraph letter to the Rwandan community…

  18. After reading all the soulful letters
    Every phrase written after feeling deep pain
    I think every Armenian should use

    Tsghasbanutune= Genocide

  19. Wow Simon! What an in depth comparative analysis. Thank you for this. It should be published elsewhere throughout our community.
    Do Armenians not deserve to hear the truth about the genocide? Do we not deserve justice? How about peace? What a sham. In comparing other statements to ours its so obvious that Obama is just another political hack who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. I don’t buy it and neither will the majority of Americans. Shame on Obama. He’s a puppet like all the rest.

  20. One can see how effective President Obama’s “borrowing” of an Armenian term and breaking his promise has been. It has thrown Armenians into total confusion and contradiction. One set of interpretations cancels out the other. There isn’t a bit of sense that emerges after all the dust settles. Denialists in Turkey and the West, aided by misguided Armenian commentators, are working as we speak to rob the name Medz Yeghern of its historic meaning. A lawyers panel in Armenia say that Obama has effectively recognized the Genocide by his use of the term, Harout Sassounian tells the President the term does not mean genocide, and so on. What is clear is that the President broke his promis. He is not paid to speak in tongues.
    The tragedy is that while it is unlikely that any foreseeable President will ever call the Armenian Genocide by its proper name (even Reagans mention of it was only in passing), Armenians as a whole seem perfectly willing to sacrifice the true meaning of the name given to their genocide by their enlightened predecessors and which is bound up so closely with Raphael Lemkin’s quest to articulate the concept and create the word.
    Just let it go! Don’t get involved in word games! Who cares? That is the bankrupt reasoning.  The question is whether Armenians are going to stand by while a very significant term in their history is gutted of its core meaning and announced to the whole world as such.
    Please note the following about Arshile Gorky from JewishJournal.com, from an article by Tom Teichholz who really understands the history:
    1. He was a witness to genocide.

    Gorky was born Vosdanig Adoian around 1904 (there is some confusion
    about the actual date) in the village Khorkom, near Lake Van in
    Turkey. In 1915, Turkish troops began a pogrom of murder and forced
    deportations of Armenians in the community, an act of systematic and
    thorough ethnic cleansing that became known as “The Great Crime” –
    for which the term genocide was coined.

  21. The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish jurist who surfaced it in a work titled Axis Rule in Occupied Europe in 1944. Tseghaspanoutiun is a translation into Armenian of that coined word, and thus Tseghaspanoutiun became a coined word. Prior to that, there was no word in Armenian for genocide. Yet, the Armenians in 1915 had no doubt that they were under threat of total extermination by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. So, whatever terms were used to describe those events, they embraced the concept of genocide. And so it is with medz yeghern. To argue over the strict meaning of words is to miss the larger concept embodied in such words. Moreover, if the Armenians were to unite under the banner of MEDZ YEGHERN, who is there to say that we are using the term incorrectly? Have you heard of any Jews arguing over the true meaning of Holocaust?

  22. To C. K. Garabed: The Armenians in 1915 had no doubt that they were under threat of total extermination by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire simply because of who they were and they called that policy The Great Crime. This was the crime that started Raphael Lemkin on his quest to develop the concept and coin the term genocide. Armenians referred to this crime by many other names, including Aghed (catastrophe), but the most important term they used in the years following the genocide was the one we are discussing. It very pointedly conveys the fact that criminality was involved in their extermination and that someone was to blame for it. Jews do not need to argue over the meaning of Holocaust  because early on they legally established that it was genocide. They then started calling it Holocaust to distinguish it from all other genocides. Now when the President says Holocaust, everyone knows what he means. This is not the case with the Armenian Genocide. It is continuously disputed and discounted. That is why it is so important that Medz Yeghern not be downgraded to catastrophe or cataclysm and that its original meaning be preserved in translation now that it has been used at such a prominent level. The Turkish government right now has no problem with calling what happened to the Armenians a calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm. What does that tell you?

  23. To Diran:
    Re: your comment – “That is why it is so important that Medz Yeghern not be downgraded to catastrophe or cataclysm and that its original meaning be preserved in translation now that it has been used at such a prominent level. The Turkish government right now has no problem with calling what happened to the Armenians a calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm. What does that tell you?”

    Although I was quoting Dr. Papazian regarding his definition of Medz Yeghern as ‘Great Armenian Cataclysm’, I feel sure that he would join me in endorsing your recommendation that its original meaning be preserved in translation. When that happens, the Turkish government will change its tune.

  24. To G. K. Garabed: Thank you. I appreciate your opening up this exchange and your sincere willingness to put yourself in the middle of it.  I hope from this point on that all those who speak in the name of the Armenian people will give the name Medz Yeghern its proper meaning when explaining it to the world and that it will be clear to everyone that it means Great Crime. It will make our case much stronger, come what may.

  25. I would like to add that, by saying that Obama can’t go back, I meant that he cannot retreat from using “Medz Yeghern” at least and find refuge into “massacres,” “tragedy,” or whatever has been the vocabulary of choice of the State Dept. until now. It would be the duty of whoever takes upon himself/herself the “representation” of the Armenian people to hammer time and again the actual meaning of “Medz Yeghern” = “Great Crime” until the president and the whole media decide to open a dictionary and understand the real meaning of words.
    On a related note,  I’m glad that Diran mentioned the use of the word “Aghed” = “Catastrophe” in the past. As the readers probably know, the recent German film “Aghed, a Genocide” brought together both terms. It’s enough to counter any Turkish argument that 1915 was just a “catastrophe.” (Why should we think everything around Turkish arguments?) In fact, the word “catastrophe” was used in 1915  by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (the predecessor of the Near East Relief), and “Aghed” was later used by Armenian writers who were the actual victims and survivors of what happened. If we think that, besides the loss of lives, we also lost territory, properties, cultural artifacts, and even our sanity, then the word “genocide” is insufficient as a label. If what happened was a crime against humanity,  humanity cannot be reduced to a mere legal issue. I believe it’s high time to start to rethink these issues (which some people among us have started to do already).   

  26. To Vartan Matiossian: Your last two sentences are very moving and deep. There is so much meaning between the lines. Thank you for your rare candor in stating that, yes, even insanity is one of the terrible costs. Indeed, this Crime cannot be reduced to a mere legal issue, and even the word genocide leaves something, many things, unaddressed, but it is the best word that can be used.
    But now to comment on the “not going back” theme. My point was that a consensus has emerged in the various world media that Medz Yeghern means Great Calamity. The President did not bother to translate the term. In the absence of a clear and pointed definition from the Armenian community, most people will conclude that Great Calamity is what the President meant. As I said, many Armenian commentators have given serious encouragement to this translation, not to mention numerous instances in the Turkish press, and in the world press generally. That being the case, the President not going back from what is generally understood to be Great Calamity is no victory for Armenians. It means that Great Crime has been successfully redefined as Great Calamity, which is a travesty. The only way for Armenians to prevent that from happening is to speak with one voice about the true meaning of Medz Yeghern. To me, in fact, it would be worth it if the President avoided the use of the term next year because he has become convinced that Armenians adamantly mean Great Crime by it. That would be a bigger victory than letting him go on using it with the understanding that it means something less.
    On the question of Aghed and the other names Armenians have given the Genocide: As you say, even genocide is inadequate to express what happened. The horror and destruction were beyond the reach of any words. Therefore Armenians came up with several names for what happened to them, each trying to express a different dimension of it, each trying to express the inexpressible. It definitely was a calamity, a catastrophe, a cataclysm, but created by the evil intent of men. The most important term used came to be Medz Yeghern which in two simple words went to the heart of the issue without ambiguity or exaggeration, a modest term, lacking the literary grandeur of words like “Great Armenian Cataclysm” but saying much more. That name should be recognized as a shield of truth bequeathed to us by men like Avedis Aharonian and other great souls who survived the Genocide and it should be carefully preserved. I completely agree it’s high time to start to rethink these issues and I especially hope you are right in saying some people among us have started to do so already.

  27. PS to my previous comment to Vartan Matiossian: I did not focus enough on your point about hammering away on Medz Yegher=Great Crime, which of course we are in total agreement on. I would only say that the first requirement is for Armenians to achieve unity on that question among themselves and after having done so address themselves vigorously to the media and the White House about it. I don’t think waiting for the media and the President to open a dictionary (which they cannot read) is realistic. WE have to make the case, so that  it is clear to the President what Medz Yeghern really means if he chooses to use it next year.

  28. No matter which way you cut the mustard, try to define it, wrangle with terminology or philosophise about the meaning, write and rewrite history, no matter who first coined the term…genocide is precisely that which it is…the deliberate, planned, organised and systematic mass murder/extermination of an ethnic group and/or an entire nation of people. No matter what terms you want to couch it in, no matter how much diplomatic niceties you want to clothe it in to hide it, no matter how much history is written or rewritten and no matter how much people want to hide from the facts, what happened with the Armenians, and what is occurring even now with other peoples is what it is….GENOCIDE. Pure and simple. All this mamby-pambying around trying to obfuscate what’s on record, what the documents show us, what they tell us, all the diplomatic and political game playing is nothing more than reprehensible behaviour on the part of those who just don’t want to see the truth be known. Or would rather the issue just go away, so as to not upset their cosy little a arrangements. Not upset the status quo, not impinge on their “deals” with others, their money making, power grabbing, influence or their own self image in the world. It’s these people, those with no moral backbone, no real conscience except where it concerns themselves (and even there it’s lacking), no true sense of justice or even compassion, that are unfortunately those people who are in power around the world. Those people chasing dubious ideologies about like flies around a cow pat. Whilst we have people of no real moral conviction or substance, no true honesty or humility about their person, none with any true conscience about their fellow human beings, we will still have new atrocities being committed, present one continued and old ones unanswered. It’s true that we get the people we vote for and for the most part the ones we do vote for are those that have weaseled their way into those positions of influence through whatever means was at their disposal, or they represent various interests, but we also have the power to decide to do whats right for a change and put people in there that will do something. Make the tough decisions to do what’s right, speak the truth and yes, probably not win themselves that many friends. However, it’s better to be honest, truthful (to yourself and to everyone else), speak your mind and have few friends, than be the life of the party and dishonest with everyone, including yourself.
    In other words, President Obama, quit hiding behind rhetoric, quit hiding behind lies and other falsehoods (especially diplomacy). Quit trying to couch false friendships. Just come out and speak the truth. It was a genocide…plain and simple.
    That also goes for anyone else, especially other world leaders as well.

  29. This was so interesting to read.  The comments part was pride inducing.  Either I have not read much lately or people are more expressive, but reading those comments and the manner in which communication was flowing made me feel so proud to be Armenian.  It took me all day to read all 29 comments because there was a lot going on in the household.  This morning, I read them again. 
    You definitely opened the door for so many intelligent, eloquent, soulfoul and brilliant Armenians who can also write, to express themselves. 
    I will only add that growing up, we knew only Medz Yeghern or Yeghern, sometimes Chart was used until a Lebanese man by the name of Moussa Prince, if I remember his name correctly, wrote a book in French called Un Genocide Oublié, L’Aménocide, translated: A Forgotten Genocide, The Armenocide.  

    Let us forget about the last word which didn’t take I suppose.  But the word genocide, was created by non-Armenians for non-Armenians.  If we are writing in English or French, Genocide would be the logical term, logistically ready and legally ripe.  As a consequence of the genocide (original intent), it was a calamity (no mention of crime here) and a catastrophe (here neither).   One cannot go very far legally with those words.  Besides, most of the world has heard or seen the two words, Armenian and Genocide, used together many many times.
    Now if we want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, we can say that he used Medz Yeghern to let us know that he is on our side but that he was told a few things after he was elected president that put him in a bind.  It could be fiction, or it could be true.
    There is no reason why we can’t, from now on, add the words Medz Yeghern after the words Armenian Genocide or vice-versa.  This is a good opportunity to take advantage of what President Obama said and use it to our advantage.  We can still use Մեծ Եղերն which I think encompasses all of the other words and is rather less confrontational.  It gives me a chance to mourn whereas the word genocide or tseghasbanoutyoun brings out my anger.

    The Medz Yeghern Armenian Genocide.

  30. Arpie’s comments take everything back to square one.
    She says the word genocide was created by non-Armenians for non-Armenians. This is not true and ignores the fact that the Armenian Genocide marks the beginning of Raphael Lemkin’s search for the word. He himself referred to it more than once as genocide. The point is not to find a less confrontational word. The point is to name it for what it was in English. It is an English word with roots in the Armenian Genocide. Say Medz Yeghern to as many non-Armenians as you want. Do you think they will understand what you are saying? The President used Medz Yeghern. It is now necessary to translate it so that the world understands what Armenians mean by it. It very simply and directly means Great Crime. It is the most accurate and diplomatic term that can be used to translate it without betraying its primary meaning.
    Here is a positive example. The quote is from the introduction to a  book called “Turkish Denials” by John Ahmaranian. In addressing the Turkish people the author says the following:
    “This book is not a call for vengeance. This course of action has always been meaningless and futile in the history of the world.  It neither restores loved ones nor erases horrors from memory.
    However, the elimination of vengeance does not nullify a need to document these events, nor does it eliminate the requirement that your people admit to their acts and designs in the Great Crime.  Unfortunately until this day, both your government and your people have arrogantly pursued a policy of denial.”
    January 4, 1989 http://www.turkishdenials.com/

  31. Diran, it seems you wanted to take my words back to square one and you succeeded.  So let’s start from there. 
    What, in my statement “the word Genocide was created by non-Armenians for non-Armenians (or non-Armenian speaking people),” is not true?  Lemkin is not Armenian and the word genocide is not an Armenian word even though he created it for that purpose.  I am not ignorant of that fact. 

    Carl, can you please tell me which U. S. president has uttered one Armenian word, let alone two?  By so doing, which president was able to to honor us with our own language?  Why should I be dependent on one foreign language, on one word in that language to validate my own truth?  Why should I not be moved hearing my own language spoken in the White House (is that where it was?) by a black man who happens to be the President of the United States of America?   And, by the way, except for e-mails rejecting it, I have not seen a video or heard the President say those words.  I cannot believe it.  Did he really say Medz Yeghern
    Just because President Obama did not turn the solemn day of Arpil 24 into politics but honored the memory of our ancestors in his own way (change) by uttering the words Medz Yeghern (High Crime) in Armenian we ought to say that he betrayed us?  We ought to say that he didn’t keep his word because he used words which are, in my humble opinion, stronger than the word genocide?
    We betrayed ourselves.  How blinded are we by the word genocide that we don’t see a good thing coming?
    All I was saying was that one does not negate the other.  On the contrary, it confirms it. What is wrong with using Medz Yeghern?  The Armenian Genocide IS a high crime.  With that one sentence Obama set us free.  And we were all blind to it. 
    I think a lot of interested people knew exactly what he was saying being privy to the Armenian case.  But because he did not say “genocide” per se, we, the Armenians, hung our heads.   
    Rejecting our own language, throwing rocks at it, belittling it and thus becoming ridiculous is the image we reflect to the world, that world upon whose language we have put all our hopes, dreams and wishes, the world that betrayed us. 
    Notice I said “we”.  I said “we” because I am guilty of having betrayed myself by not holding on to my original reaction to the news that President Obama used the words “Medz Yeghern” instead of Genocide.  When I first read the news, I felt my grandmother’s memory was being honored.  And that is what I meant by saying it gives me the opportunity to mourn.  
    So what if it is going to take a little time for the world to catch up with what Medz Yeghern means.  That will give us a chance to cool our heads a little.
    Yes we can.  We CAN say Medz Yeghern.  That is change I can believe in. 
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to purge my own mind.

  32. To Arpie:  You speak very eloquently for those who thought it was great that the President used an Armenian term. I don’t think it was spoken but only printed in his statement. I doubt it would have sounded very moving if he had tried to pronounce it. I voted for him and am very happy that he broke through an incredible color line in this country. We are all the richer for it. But he also broke a solemn promise. He didn’t promise to say Medz Yeghern. If he had begun using the term and explaining it to the American people while a candidate, that might have prepared the ground for his using it on April 24th, even if he didn’t use the G-word. But he didn’t, and it seems the word was provided to him at the last minute to save face. The idea that he discovered he could not say AG only after he became President is not credible for such a sophisticated young Senator. He took the Armenian constituency for a ride for their votes in good old American political style. And we are supposed to be grateful?
    On the word genocide, you still don’t seem to accept that it is a word for the whole world, obviously including Armenians. We are not just talking to each other. We are talking to the world. Can you count the very important words that came into Armenian from other languages? Are we supposed to purge them from our language because they were created by others for others? On April 24th we try to communicate with the world about the Armenian Genocide. If the President won’t say AG  next year and chooses to say MY, then we are obliged to make it clear to him and to the world what those two simple, powerful words mean. As Vartan Matiossian says, they mean very simply and directly Great Crime. Making that clear is the least we can do to honor the memory of those whose lives were extinguished with such ruthless barbarity and comfort those who still mourn.
    “Ayskan  CHARIK teh moranan mer vortik, togh voghtch ashkarh gartah Hayoun nakhadink”. Avedis Aharonian
    [emphasis supplied]

  33. By way of explanation of why I included the quotation from A. Aharonian in my previous post: To me, saying Medz Yeghern to a non-Armenian audience without saying what it means is a form of forgetting. It is a way of avoiding the issue and burying the truth even further. Medz Yeghern is not a complicated expression, not one of the more difficult things to translate into English. It has a simple English equivalent, Great Crime. That is the term that should be used in an English speaking country and given primary emphasis. Saying it in Armenian is secondary. It is necessary to say Great Crime before those who are insisting it means great calamity, etc. completely subvert its meaning. Use it or lose it.

  34. Summation from my point of view: There is underlying agreement that Armenian Genocide is the most exact term when communicating with the world at large. Arpie has a special place in her heart for Medz Yeghern, as should all Armenians. It is sacred to me too and that’s why I’ve been trying to defend its meaning so that it is not used against us by our enemies and reduced from something specific to something general.
    Holocaust means completely burning a victim, not genocide per se. Shoah means catastrophe, not genocide per se. But these and others names were given to genocide by the peoples who suffered them and are understood by historical context and consistent usage. Whatever happens, no one should be allowed to reduce the name Medz Yeghern to whatever is politically expedient or psychologically comfortable. If it is used by a non-Armenian to communicate with non-Armenians, it should be given a true and accurate translation.

  35. So he never said Medz Yeghern?  It was just written?  This changes the picture in my head now.  My interceptions in this forum should be excused then and I have no argument about having Medz Yeghern being translated correctly for the whole world.  My argument was about its total rejection.  Now that we agree on those two points a daunting task awaits all those who write about it (AG or MY) in the English language.

    Thank you.

  36. Exhibit A. [on the dangers of not clearly defining and translating “Medz Yeghern” into English]
    The following quotation is from Suat Kiniklioglu, Member of Turkish Parliament and Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, 2009 http://www.suatkiniklioglu.org/tr/my…s-yeghern.html
    ‘Obama’s statement is interesting from a variety of perspectives, and I believe it is worth examining whether the term “Meds Yeghern” has the potential to become a mutually acceptable term for both sides to commemorate the events in question. As is now commonly known, “Meds Yeghern” denotes “Great Calamity/Great Disaster” in the Armenian language. . . . I believe the events of World War I constituted a Great Calamity for Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Anatolian Greeks and probably other peoples of the Ottoman Empire. . . . Therefore, the term “Meds Yeghern” should not be chided right away because it is an Armenian term. I think it harbors the potential to bring all of the aggrieved parties together. “Meds Yeghern” could become the cornerstone of a positive language about the events of 1915, one which signifies the calamity that the competition over the Ottoman realms between the imperial powers brought about . . . . All interested in the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations should look into the potential of whether the term “Meds Yeghern” could be applied to the wider pain and disaster that occurred in eastern Anatolia during World War I and thus could pave the way for a common language on this painful chapter of history.’

  37. Wow!  Taken from Diran’s comment above quoting Kiniklioglu, Turkish MP and Foreign Affairs committee:
    I think it harbors the potential to bring all of the aggrieved parties together. “Meds Yeghern” could become the cornerstone of a positive language about the events of 1915, one which signifies the calamity that the competition over the Ottoman realms between the imperial powers brought about . . . . All interested in the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations should look into the potential of whether the term “Meds Yeghern” could be applied to the wider pain and disaster that occurred in eastern Anatolia during World War I and thus could pave the way for a common language on this painful chapter of history.’
    Can there really be a positive language with which to speak of the murder of a nation and the theft of all they owned collectively and individually?  No one denies that there was wide spread tragedy and pain for all parties, including Turks, in WWI, but to couch what the Turks perpetrated against the Armenians in words that describe the generic calamity of the War is a white-washing of grand proportions.  I understand that Turkey doesn’t want to face this horrible guilt and is searching for ways to avoid making an admission, but Kiniklioglu’s comment really distorts reality.   It makes it sound like the calamity that befell the Ottomans was not of their own creation but entirely the result of the wrangling for control of the Ottoman empire by external powers.
    Perhaps Kiniklioglu is on too something by struggling to find words that will be acceptable to both sides, but he needs to realize that when Armenians say Medz Yeghern we mean the Great Calamity known as the  Armenian Genocide. If this is what he means as well, than I can get on this bandwagon.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

  38. Thank you Diran.

    This forum is for the exchange of ideas and has given me a chance to question some of my beliefs.  This year, and in particular in the month of April, I have avoided all matters politic because I felt a break could do us both good.

    But I have an itch too and it has nothing to do with politics.  I am using this forum to alleviate it because I believe they are interchangeable.  In other words, I can give it a political spin:  There is nothing wrong with wanting peace, having faith that justice is served in the long run. 

    From the point of view of those who are fighting for all of us Armenians on the front lines to have the genocide recognized globally and legally, the quotation Diran included in a previous post about the words Medz Yeghern, sounds Orwellian.  Not only the author opened the wrong dictionary but created a new agenda for it.   If it was not so sad, it would have been hilarious.  But not a bad agenda I might add.

    From the point of view of those who are not fighting but are mere spectators,  like me, it  feels like the author is trying to steal something from me by doing so. 

    It reminds me of the French words “a propos” for example as used by most Americans to mean “appropriate” whereas it means “about, regarding.” 

    As far as the quotation from Aharonian is concerned, a propos that, wanting peace and brotherly love does not mean forgetting the “charik.”

    Peace to you.

  39. And Peace to you, Arpie. I’m so glad the mists of misunderstanding have dissolved and we seem to be on the same page. Peace and love are what it’s all about. But they can’t exist without truth. As you say, we have a daunting task ahead of us.
    To Boyajian I would say, No, not the Great Calamity known as the Armenian Genocide, but rather the Great Crime known as the Armenian Genocide. I don’t believe Kiniklioghlu is onto anything but denying the Armenian Genocide. A wolf that is making sheepish sounds to fool the gullible. Yes, he is stealing from you. He is not looking for any middle ground that will benefit a single self-respecting Armenian.

  40. Yes, Diran, I agree, better to say  the Great Crime known as the Armenian Genocide, although I believe just saying genocide implies crime.  And I tend to agree that these are just new machinations designed to achieve the same goal:  to help Turkey avoid taking responsibility for their crime against our nation.

  41. To Boyajian: I admit to and was aware of the awkward redundancy of my phrasing, but at that cost considered it crucial to make the point that from now on we need to make a sharp distinction between calamity and crime, the word calamity leaving the door wide open for people like Mr. Kiniklioglu to completely and with ready appetite swallow up the reality of what was perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire and drown it in a sea of impersonal misfortune. As I see it, President Obama by using the term in his statement without giving it a clear definition opened a gap for people like Mr. K. to, as they say, drive a truck through. And believe me, there is a whole convoy rolling and ready to roll.. We have to put a stop to it now and reclaim the meaning of our language.

  42. Whether a Scientific word like Genocide

    Replaces M.Y. and becomes a law,

    Whether the world agrees in sorrow,
    Whether P. Obama denies the row,

    Whether everyone vetoes the no.

    Our hearts, our souls carved by sharp saw
    To insist, “That was planned Genocide bow,
    Happened all, merciless politician know
    Events recently veiled from unveiled jaw.
    People lost everything, starved until paw.”
    Turks wanted to keep only one Armenian*
    In the museum, near Ayasofya,
    Like a waxed man of Madam Tussauds.
    Generations vanished, few survived, lucky to grow!
    Impossible to comprehend how Genocide **needs a proof.
    Most orphans lived in arid deserts, grooves,
    Saw sisters raped, mothers killed, fathers disappeared;

    What else does humanity desperately want to see more bleed?
    * This stanza was from my grandmother Zorah Dabbaghian ( 1891 -1978)  
    I heard from her almost every night, heart vanishing stories from child hood:
    That they wanted to keep only one Armenian in a Museum
    She did not know the word ‘Genocide’=’Tzegaspanoutioun’
    Thus, is this Genocide or M.Y!
    ** English editor wrote to me that genocide must start with capital letter,
    ‘Genocide’ just to sound M.Y, huge disaster…..etc
    Man made earthquake.


  43. The direct translation of the “Medz Yeghern” is “Great Calamity”.   Each nation has experienced a “Great Calamity”, that members of that nation know what it is, and use the term “Great Calamity” to describe it.  Our Great Calamity – so far – was the Genocide by the Turks.  Or the Great Calamity that befell us was the Genocide.  Or the Turks committed Genocide against us, and that was our Medz Yeghern.  Or our Medz Yeghern was the Genocide.  Or the Genocide was our “Medz Yeghern”.  In Armenian “Mer Medz Yeghern@ tseghaspanutyunn er”.  Earthquake is a great calamity, but in Armenian we never say “Yerkrasharj@ Medz Yegehrn e”.  In Armenian the term “Medz Yeghern” is used ONLY in refernece to the Genocide committed against us. Hope this clarifies usage of the term in Armenian. 

  44. To Raymond with all due respect and brotherly feelings, your explanation does not help. It is natural for us to think of the Armenian Genocide as a calamity. It was. There is a name in Armenian for expressing that thought, Aghed. There are many other Armenian names for the Genocide, each expressing a different dimension of it. But the name Medz Yeghern means Great Crime, or Great Atrocity, an act of evil. We should not allow our natural feeling that the AG was a calamity distort Great Crime into Great Calamity. Medz Yeghern accuses someone of a crime. That is its intent. Even the Turkish government is only too happy to call the Armenian Genocide a calamity. Please look at what Vartan Matiossian said in these comments on June 9:
    ‘It would be the duty of whoever takes upon himself/herself the “representation” of the Armenian people to hammer time and again the actual meaning of “Medz Yeghern” = “Great Crime” until the president and the whole media decide to open a dictionary and understand the real meaning of words.’

  45. Words, descriptive words are needed.
    The word ‘genocide’ was created  to serve for the description of the vile
    elimination of humans – by other humans.  Innocent humans violated by perpetrators via slaughters and killings, and worse.  For now this word, ‘genocide’, no longer serves it purpose – does not tell it like it is.
    When criminals, in most civilized nations commit crimes, that society seeks the criminal to face justice.  Now, when the crime of ‘genocides’ occurs,
    masses of human beings slaughtered, kidnapped, raped, burned alive in churches, the label ‘genocide’ has lost any and all of  its orignal intent – for now this word does not recognize that masses of humans beings are being inhumanely tortured, slaughtered, violated and worse.  Perpetrators who commit ‘genocides’ are not made to face their crimes, are not  penalized for the crimes they have committed, as in the case of a Turkey, committing what today is called ‘genocides’ since the 19th, 20th, and now, the 21st centuries.  Too, Darfur (Sudanese too, deny committing any crimes as do their ally Turkey)  too, the Kurds face slaughters by the Turks – ongoing over the years.
    So what?  Just another mass of humanity being defiled, and the world ignores this – the cycle of mass violations, humiliations and worse contiue.  Rafael Lemkin, your intention to label these perpetrators actions was also to have these
    ‘genocides’ ended… but the world has not yet become civilized enough to join together to end the cycle of ‘genocides’… perhaps the world needs a new another, word – maybe KILLERS and SLAUGHTERERS would be more descriptive – maybe this true description of the the actions of the perpetrators would be more ‘catchy’… better understood, then, maybe, innocents shall not have to succumb to KILLERS and/or SLAUGHTERERS, or even MURDERERS….RAPISTS…
    P.S. and Obama was going to be the president who would speak up… when?

  46. For Raymond:
    From “Nayiri” online dictionary of the Armenian language.
    “Նայիրի” հայ լեզուի սրբագրիչ բառարան:

    եղեռն (գոյական) Ոճիր, քրէական յանցանք * ջարդ:

    yeghern (koyagan) vojir, kreyagan hantsank, chart

    yeghern (noun) crime, criminal offense, massacre


  47. To Diran on your response to me!
    Thank you for your reponse. Your point is well taken. I was attempting to show how the two words are used in a sentence, and that is “genocide is a type of crime”, as opposed to “crime is a type of genocide”.

    Let me rephrase my previous post and see if it makes sense. Feel free to critique it again! 
    ” Turks committed a Great Crime against us in the form of Genocide”.   

    However I have never seen “yeghern” used to mean “crime” in Armenian.  When mass media reports on crime, and criminals they don’t use the term “yeghern”.  
    When the term “yeghern” is used in Armenian, it is very clear that it is referring to the Genocide.  For example when one says “yeghernitz azadvats”; it is very clear that one is talking about a survivor of the Genocide.

  48. Raymond,
    You say, ‘I have never seen “yeghern” used to mean ”crime” in Armenian”.
    Did you read my previous post? ? ?

  49. Diran, I accept your point and agree that in this case we must be precise in our language and not allow the crime of the Armenian genocide be diluted to a mutual tragedy or shared calamity  with Turks.  There was widespread tragedy in the Ottoman region during WWI, but what happened to the Armenians was singular, unique in the scope of the destruction.  Turkey must accept this responsibility and we must protect the truth of our history.

  50. To Raymond Again:  Since the word “yeghern” was used immediately following the Genocide but before the word ‘genocide’ was coined, and since it was a word used only by Armenians among themselves to denote what they had just been through, it obviously referred to the Genocide.  (One hates to absurdly repeat oneself like that, but that’s what we have been reduced to in this situation in which the perpetrator will not come clean.)Yeghern, of itself, denotes major crime involving violence, obviously something much graver than holding up a liquor store or snatching a purse. When you put “Medz” in front of it, even more so. Genocide is the name of a category of crime. Armenians did not experience it as a category but as a specific and brutal reality that was the first one of the 20th century and very wisely chose Medz Yeghern to be their principal name for it. Today the Turkish lobby and its agents would like nothing better than for Armenians and the world to forget the clear and fundamental criminality inherent in the name Medz Yeghern and are actively promoting ‘great calamity’ as the preferred translation. They obviously put the word on the president’s desk so that the whole discussion of the Armenian Genocide would come to a stop with agreement that it was a ‘calamity’. The president, by not dignifiying the term with his own translation, has only furthered that intention. Raymond, I hope we are in agreement that “crime” is closer to the meaning of genocide than “calamity” and that, therefore, “Great Crime” is a better rendering of “Medz Yeghern” than “Great Calamity”. We have to make a firm choice before 2015.

  51. Boyajian, I very much appreciate your comprehension of what I have been trying to get at.
    As a couple of people have said, Manooshag for one, none of the words really does justice to the reality of what they designate, not even genocide itself. But we have to use words. We should defend the true and direct meaning of Medz Yeghern, two simple words that point to unimaginable and immeasurable suffering. If we do not, if we soften their meaning, change their meaning into what they are not to make their translation less offensive or more palatable to people who have no authentic concern for us, then we make it that much more unlikely that we will succeed in achieving genocide recognition on the part of the countries that really matter: the U. S., Great Britain, Germany, and Turkey. Boyajian, thank you for leaving me with hope. Abrís!

  52. _Dear editor ….Please Clear the first one


    “Every Language has a soul
    Every language has its own roar
    Exhales inside its cavernous’ core
    Can you learn languages all? 
    Each language vibrates a soul.”


    President O.B should not use a phrase he can’t understand,
    he is a poet , judge ,lawyer, he should be blamed.

    Medz Yeghern
    for us is a horrible word 
    Not every one can understand 
    Something more than calamity…disaster…. 
    Affected and still affecting 
    Lives of our cohorts
    Like the end of the world.
    Clever genes ended can’t return.
    Translation has no meaning at all 
    May be for others 
    None for Us….
    Can you translate 
    What’s in your deep hearted-mind 
    How much you love your mother
    And your lost motherland!

    So please President
    Stay where you are
    Don’t sell you philosophy
    On the graves of seared lives
    Don’t sell for your and our enemies
    To run your political cart.
    Don’t enunciate a phrase
    You can’t heartfully pronounce
    As you never walked with hungry bare injured feet
    On the arid hot spiky rocks of Der-Zor
    Near bleeding rivers filled with bones.
    Crushed lacrimating eyes outside the skulls.

    Tell me, “How can you feel pains
    Of something you never have faced!”
    How you can repeat
    That horrible phrase!
    Each time we utter Medz Yeghern
    We fell that letters like a sword
    Entering our deepest heart valves.
    Tearing our creed
    Regretful that we possess
    So clear soulful-faith!

  53. I hope this will be my last comment. For those who are hung up on the term genocide, please remember that genos from the Greek is defined as race; while ethnos, also from the Greek, is defined as nation. In modern usage, race is associated with color, while nation is associated with ethnic origin. Based on that, ethnocide is what one should prefer to characterize the murder of a nation, which in Armenian would be azkaspanoutiun. Now, doesn’t Medz Yeghern compare favorably?

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