Monday, June 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: New Website Documents that Soviets Forcibly Re-identified Armenians as Turks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 16 – The Yerevan Center for Contemporary Experimental Art on Saturday launched a new website to document the repressions that the Soviet government visited upon Armenia and Armenians by posting interviews with those who lived through it before it is too late.

            Among the most potentially explosive findings so far involve reports that in 1949, Soviet officials re-identified Armenians who had come to the Armenian SSR from Turkey after World War II and then were deported to the Altay region of the RSFSR (

            At that time, the organizers of the new portal -- -- say,  the ethnic Armenians involved were infuriated and said “Write what you like, write that we are Koreans, but not that we are Turks,” an understandable reaction given the history of the relations of those two nations and something that complicates the use of Soviet data about the deportations.

            Granush Kharatyan, the organizer of the new interview program, said that “90 percent” of those deported from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1949 were in fact Armenians but that the Soviets hid this by changing the names and nationalities of the people involved to conceal that fact.

            She said that interviewing those who had been subjected to this was important because their numbers were dwindling and because Yerevan has not been willing to address this situation systematically.  Indeed, security officials there have refused to release such information saying they are protecting the confidentiality of those involved.

            The interviews published by the portal to date provide a fascinating glimpse into one of the darkest periods of Soviet history, the end of Stalin’s rule.  But they are also to trigger new questions about more recent times as well, including the deference Armenians continue to give to Russia and the belief of many of them that Moscow is invariably on their side.

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