Marsoobian to Present ‘The Story of an Islamized Armenian Family’ in Las Vegas

Prof. Armen Marsoobian will give an illustrated lecture entitled “Survival and Resistance in the Heart of Darkness: The Story of an ‘Islamized’ Armenian Family in Marsovan, 1915-1919,” on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. at St. Garabed Armenian Church, 2054 E. Desert Inn Rd., Las Vegas, NV.  The lecture is co-sponsored by St. Garabed Church, the Armenian American Cultural Society of Las Vegas, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).

A view of Marsovan from Armen Marsoobian’s family archive
A view of Marsovan from Armen Marsoobian’s family archive

Prof. Armen Marsoobian will present the story of an “Islamized” Armenian family, the Dildilian-Der Haroutiounian family, from the time shortly before their conversion in August 1915 to the restoration of their Christian Armenian identity in the spring of 1919.  Based upon extensive family memoirs, letters, photographs, and oral testimony, he describes what daily life was like for members of the family during this period.

Of the approximately 12,000 Armenians living in Marsovan (Merzifon) and its associated villages, a small number remained behind at the conclusion of the deportations in August 1915.  The heads of these households held occupations that were deemed essential to the economy of the city and were allowed to remain on the condition that they convert to Islam and adopt Turkish identity.  Tsolag Dildilian was a military photographer and was given such an opportunity.  He was thus able to save members of his immediate family in Marsovan.

The family maintained a dual identity, living their Christian faith and Armenian identity at home but living as Muslim Turks in the community.  Upon the conclusion of the war, the family played an important role in rescuing orphans and restoring the Armenian identities of the converts.  With the rise of the nationalist movement, the family’s activities in support of Armenian survival became suspect, forcing them to flee Turkey in 1922.  The presentation will be richly illustrated with photographs.

Armen Tsolag Marsoobian is Professor and Chairperson of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.  He has twice been the Nikit and Eleanora Ordjanian Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies, Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies, at Columbia University where he has taught a graduate seminar, “Memories of the Armenian Genocide: An Exploration through Memoir, Literature, and the Arts.”  He has co-edited five books, including Genocide’s Aftermath: Responsibility and Repair (with Claudia Card) (2007), The Philosophical Challenge of September 11 (2004), and The Blackwell Guide to American Philosophy (2004).  He has published articles and book chapters in aesthetics, moral philosophy, genocide studies, and American philosophy.  His essay, “Rescue in Marsovan: The Untold Story Behind a Photograph,” won the Hrant Dink Prize for Historical Research in 2011.

More information about the lecture may be had by calling 617-489-1610, faxing 617-484-1759, e-mailing, or writing to NAASR, 395 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA02478.

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