Destruction at Tadem: The Purge of the Armenians

Special for the Armenian Weekly

Yet another plague has recently shaken Turkey: the purges of academics from Turkish universities. According to the BIA news network, 4,811 academics from 112 universities have been discharged by five statutory decrees declared during the state of emergency. Fifteen universities have been closed.

One of the universities, from which many academics have been dismissed or even detained by police, is Firat University in the city of Elazig (Kharpert), which has a long history of persecution of Armenian students and educators.

A band of defenders from Tadem, including Robert Aram Kaloosdian’s father Boghos Kaloosdian (top row, center) (Photo: ‘Tadem, My Father’s Village’)

According to Matthew Karanian, the author of the 2015 book Historic Armenia After 100 Years, Kharpert is one of the oldest areas of Armenian habitation. “Some scholars believe that Kharpert may even be the cradle of the Armenian nation,” according to Karanian.

The author Robert Aram Kaloosdian, whose father comes from the village of Tadem in Kharpert, writes about individual stories of the Armenian villagers of Tadem, which was continuously inhabited by Armenians since its founding until the early 1920’s. His 2015 book Tadem, My Father’s Village: Extinguished during the 1915 Armenian Genocide also elaborates on the great importance the Armenian community of the village attached to education and learning.

“Research shows that Tadem had been prominent at one time,” writes Kaloosdian. “The émigrés founded the Tadem Enlightenment Education-Loving Society, generally known in English as the Tadem Educational Society, on June 17, 1891, in Portland, Maine, for the purpose of establishing a coeducational institution in ‘the village of Tadem in the province of Kharpert’, their hometown in historic Armenia. They also pledged to support and improve the school year after year ‘financially, morally, and intellectually.’”

But for Armenians who were exposed to constant persecution at the hands of the Ottoman regime, trying to improve their educational system was no easy task. “My father’s youth evolved under the shadow of terror: stories of flight and hiding, of slaughter, plunder, and devastation. The village was an emotionally wounded community. Memories of the massacres were still fresh in the minds of my father’s elders, as nearly every Armenian family in Tadem had paid a heavy price. A young person growing up in the early years of the twentieth century learned that massacre and murder were part of the experience of being Armenian in the Ottoman Empire,” Kaloosdian explains.

Armenian civilians, escorted by armed Ottoman soldiers, are marched through Kharpert, in April 1915.

However, the Armenian villagers of Tadem were still deeply dedicated to learning and cultural advancement. “Tadem’s citizens, both at home and in the United States, were smitten with the desire for literacy and learning. They were not looking to run a school just to get the children off the dusty roads of Tadem or out of fertile fields of Kharpert. They wanted to spread the love of learning in order to bring light into the dark world of their ignorance.

“The Tadem Educational Society stocked a library with Armenian books, and the writings of the greater authors of Armenia passed from hand to hand. According to its surviving alumni, the school was enjoying a renaissance when the First World War exploded and the Armenian massacres terminated educational and cultural life in Tadem. The church and school were destroyed a second time, and the people of Tadem dispersed to form colonies in the Near East. Twenty-four years of effort, sacrifice, and commitment came to an end… In the span of a few months in the middle of 1915, Tadem ceased being an Armenian village,” writes Kaloosdian.

Kaloosdian explains that the story he learned from the survivors of the genocide in Tadem presented the village as the microcosm of what was occurring throughout the Armenian provinces.

All other Armenian villages and towns were exposed to a similar treatment in 1915 and afterwards.  Historian Christopher Walker writes in his book Armenia: The Survival of a Nation that in a dispatch dated, Nov. 14, 1929, British consul A. Monck-Mason quoted an Armenian from Kharput saying: “In Turkey today we have no means of existence; we are persecuted, robbed, ill-treated, thrown into prison, judged, and, if we are lucky, deported.”

Many Turkish people seem to be shocked by the current governmental pressures against academics and educators. But the “original sin” was committed in the Armenian Genocide. As Kaloosdian writes, “The scars of those terrible years remained with the survivors until the end of their days.”

Kharpert: The Community School graduates of 1909/1910 with the school’s director Tlgadintsi (seated, center) (Source: Nubarian Library collection/Houshamadyan)

Kaloosdian effectively clarifies what genocide actually entails. It was not only hundreds of thousands of human lives that perished—the genocide has also caused the destruction of a great civilization.

According to a 2013 report by Turkey’s History Foundation entitled the Minority Schools from Past to Present, in 1894, there were 6,437 schools that belonged to Armenian, Greek and Jewish minorities in the Ottoman Empire.  In Istanbul alone, there were 302.

There are only 22 minority schools in Istanbul today. Sixteen belong to Armenians. All of the minority schools across Anatolia have been closed down.


Uzay Bulut

Uzay Bulut

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. She is a fellow at the Middle East Forum (MEF) and is currently based in Washington D.C. Bulut’s journalistic work focuses mainly on Turkish politics, ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey, and antisemitism.


  1. Now once again the word of “what comes around goes around”
    proved that it was said truly based on experiences.
    All of these highly educated Turks who used to hold academic careers in Turkish universities were still the deniers of the facts of The very Armenian Genocide at some point of their lives and they stood by their governments dirty lies and BS propagandas against Armenians.
    Now that they become the Targets of their government Things must have changed..
    We can’t help not to ask that why that selfish ego exist in the human nature regardless of the education at all…

  2. My great-grandfathers and practically all their relatives and friends, who lived in Kharpert, were among the victims of the First Genocide of the Twentieth Century. They are mentioned in Mr. Kaloosdian’s book.

  3. To Yervant Andre:
    With respect, you are right about the majority of the Turkish bourgeoisie. However, there is a minority of academics, both professors and students, in the Turkish Republic who had begun to devote their careers to acknowledging and exposing the dark history of the Turkish Republic and its predecessor state. In a way, the development was inevitable: the contradictions in methodology between official views of history and documentary evidence are simply too great for a responsible historian to embrace the Turkish state’s historical propaganda. But sadly, it is this enlightened minority who are suffering the most, as Erdogan attempts to move the Turkish state back to a more explicitly fascist organization.

  4. I think Turkey is about to implode. Turks themselves will topple the system. Something similar to what happened in Iran about 40 years ago. Erdogan will turn it into another fanatic Islamic system like the rest of Islamic countries in that region. I believe that’s the best thing that can happen for Armenians. I believe it’s in Armenia’s best interest to see Turkey fall apart and join the ranks of the 3rd world Islamic nations. Currently the world views Turkey as a civilized and moderate Islamic country and a catalyst for change in the Islamic world, that view works against the Armenians and our cause.

  5. Lets be clear: The caption under the picture that says, “Armenian civilians escorted”, “escorted???? Really? It should read “Armenian able bodied men being taken to the outskirts of Kharpert to be MURDERED”.

    The main purpose again by the decision of the mostly Donemeh CUP, which was carried out by average Turks and Kurds, was THEFT of wealth and property. The CUP were simple criminals willing to do what ever to steal. And because of the unified mentality of Turks, were then easily able to install an amnesia state and offer a ‘counter narrative’ This meaning real academia in Turkey is a threat to Turkish national security. As turkey itself was invented off these mass murders and reparation is in order. Further, if you want to know the real actors, do a study of were the money went. It will tell you everything.

    One Armenia, Arstakh and diaspora is the answer.

  6. How amusing it is whenever those desperate Turk denialists proceed to make the claim that Armenian “mass criminals” were engaged in massacring the Turkish “civilians” of Van along with the rest of present-day eastern Turkey (Western Armenia). Well, exactly how did this occur when since the beginning of the creation of the massively criminal Ottoman Turkish Empire, the Armenian inhabitants (as well as the other Christian inhabitants) had been forbidden from owning firearms, and would be subjected to extremely severe penalties if caught?

    What’s even more amusing is when those same desperate Turk denialists proceed to claim that the few Armenians who did manage to get a hold of some firearms and rightfully kill Ottoman Turk soldiers who were exterminating and emptying out the entire Armenian population of Van as well as the other five Western Armenian provinces, had absolutely no right to do this and it was therefore the Turks who were the victims. The Turkish culture is not only a culture comprised of mass criminals, but it’s also a culture comprised of mass denialists.

    • Yerevan, the whole “Armenian rebellion” excuse is ridiculous because
      Armenians are the original inhabitants and Turks are basic invaders & occupiers justifying their rights? 2nd, both Assyrians and Greeks were murdered in the same campaign. Did they rebel? What their excuse for liqidation

  7. When will Countries and Nations that are Christian Start Supporting and helping Armenia stand on its feet both financially, militarily, and as a Country since they say they are Christian.

    People and Countries need to start helping the Country of Armenia stand on its feet so the can be ableft to protect itself from Stupid Sunning Islamic Radix5al Nations such as Turkey.

    Shame on USA and an Stupid country that. supports Turkey.

    Try helping and Support Christian Armenian’s for once since you guys believe in our Armenian religions and read our Armenian invented bibles, and put crosses on your neck like Armenian’s taught you.

    This is the thanks us Armenian’s get from other Christian people and Nation’s.

    In the time of need,pain,war or economic suffering No one helps Armenians.

    But they go around claiming that there Christian but don’t want to come and pay there dues and respect to there inventor and creator Armenia.

    Shame on the world…

    Let’s make Armenia a strong and healthy place…

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