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Introduction

Transnational Identities in Print: The Armenian-Language Press of France in a Global Perspective

Le transnational à la une : regards sur la presse arménienne de France
Talar Chahinian et Stéphanie Prévost
p. 7-29

Résumés

L’introduction de ce numéro spécial sur la presse arménophone de France vise à mettre en perspective cette riche production périodique dans le cadre plus large des presses allophones de par le monde et en France afin de mieux en souligner certaines spécificités. La France a vu paraître plus de deux cents titres publiés pour tout ou partie en langue arménienne depuis 1855, dont le quotidien Haratch à la longévité exceptionnelle (1925-2009). Elle a de ce fait été de longue date un foyer majeur de publication périodique arménienne. En insistant sur les dynamiques transnationales de cette presse en France, le présent volume montre comment elle a contribué à faire de la langue arménienne un vecteur de lien communautaire à travers un espace diasporique en expansion après 1915.

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1There is a scene in Fatih Akın’s 2014 film, The Cut, where we encounter a group of Armenian refugees, who having survived the 1915 genocide, now find themselves in Aleppo, Syria, in desperate search for their loved ones lost along the road to dispersion. At the center of this scene, a survivor named Krikor, holds an Armenian-language newspaper and reads out loud from its Search column. Common to post-genocide community newspapers from around the world, the Search column printed calls for lost family members, by identifying the location of the “searcher” and describing those being “searched” for. Krikor’s announcements, delivered to an audience that was undoubtedly comprised of many who were not literate in Armenian, captures the print medium in its transformative stage and demonstrates the centrality of the Armenian press in the making of the post-genocide Armenian diaspora. It is precisely at this turn, where the Armenian newspaper solidifies its role as a transnational tool, linking the dispersed population, cultivating a web of audiences, and branding the Armenian language as the facilitator of this new network.

2While the Armenian-language press that was established across various nodes of dispersion in the Middle East, Europe and North America is often seen as a post-genocide community-building phenomenon, in France, it has a history of vibrant activity that spans before 1915. As such, France presents itself as an exemplary community space, where the Armenian press can be traced across historical periods. From its early publications of the semi-annual Arewelk‘ (1855-1856), the weekly Armēnia (1885-1923), the monthly literary journal Anahid (1898-1949) to the celebrated newspapers of Abakay (1920) and Ḥaṛach (1925), and more recently Nor Ḥaṛach (2009), France has hosted countless newspapers, journals of literature and the arts, and political party organs. Together these publications cover an incredible range of topics that on the one hand, reflect the French-Armenian community’s cultural practices, social concerns, artistic expression, literary interests, and political debates and on the other, trace its evolving negotiations between the local community, the host state, the transnational Armenian community, and the global political arena.

  • 1 Organised on 7 November 2019 by Boris Adjemian, Talar Chahinian, Mélanie Keledjian and Stéphanie Pr (...)

3In 2019, to examine the Armenian-language press of France as a material object and to explore its intersections with collective identity formation in diasporic communities, the AGBU Nubar Library in Paris and Paris Diderot University (UMR LARCA), with the support of Transfopress, a network of scholars researching the allophone presses, and the Bibliothèque universitaire des langues et civilisations (BULAC), organized a one-day conference held at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO).1 Bringing together scholars from various disciplines and institutions around the world, the conference, “The Armenian-Language Press in France and the Creation of a Transnational Space,” presented discussions of journals and newspapers that could be considered both as cultural repositories of Armenian life in France and as spaces of political mobilization and language standardization within the broader context of the Armenian diaspora.

4The collection of articles, essay, and interview that form the special topic of this EAC issue developed from the 2019 conference. While its route to publication has been long due to detours demanded by the global pandemic, its discussions remain ever so relevant, particularly in light of the major political shifts of the Armenian world following the 2020 Artsakh War. The recent loss of Armenian territory and the displacement of 130,000 Armenians once again raise concerns similar to the post-genocide years regarding the fate of lost or exiled cultural heritage. Furthermore, they force our retrospective gaze into a more acute focus in raising questions about the role of media in cultivating diasporic belonging. With this collection, our aim is to place the Armenian-language periodical production of France within the broader rubric of the foreign-language press to interrogate its capacity for forging communal belonging that, at once, cultivates local attachment as well as transnational consciousness.

The Armenian-language press “abroad”: Reflections on allophone periodical publishing

  • 2 G. Levonyan, 1934; H. Petrosyan, 1956; K. Mooradian, 1963; A. Kirakossian, 1970; J. Gharibian, 2012 (...)

5This special issue theoretically situates itself within discussions on allophone periodical publishing, i.e. newspapers or periodicals which are issued in a language different than the official language(s) of the country they were printed in. Though as a global phenomenon, this has long escaped scholars’ radar, certain countries (like the United States) have been the focus of extensive literature on allophone publishing, herein showing how much terminology varies in reference to that press (“allophone”, “foreign-language”, “ethnic”, “diasporic”, “immigrant”, “exile”, “minority-language”) and never fully encapsulates its variety and the very complex, multi-layered grounds for its development. Conversely, rather extensive bibliographies exist for certain languages that have spawned a vast periodical literature abroad. This is the case of Armenian.2

  • 3 In France, collections can be found at: the AGBU Nubar Library (Paris), the Bibliothèque nationale (...)
  • 4 On a general history: A. Kharatyan, 2006. For the Russian Empire: L. Khachaturian, 2009; L. Pendse, (...)

6In 1970, the bibliography edited by Kirakossian already listed 3,264 periodical titles published in Armenian since 1794, including over 2,000 published in diasporic communities – the latter figure then excluded titles published in Soviet Republics of Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. Further research, as well as ongoing preservation projects and digitization operations may turn up more.3 The nineteenth-century Armenian-language press in Russia, France, the United States, Britain has also been discussed in some detail, as has the nineteenth-century Armenian press in general.4 As such, this special issue builds on the existing literature to deepen our understanding of the transnational dynamics of Armenian-language periodical/serial titles published in France. Each journalistic venture has its own rationale and needs to be analyzed in local, national, transnational contexts, as articles presented here suggest.

7The centrality of the press (newspapers, weeklies, monthlies, almanacs, magazines, etc.) to Armenian culture is undisputable. As Khachig Tölölyan put it in his introduction to Jerair H. Gharibian’s Armenian Journalism 1794-1977 (1977):

  • 5 See J. Gharibian, 2012.

Both in the homeland and in the diaspora, Armenians have made their history in contexts that gave the press an uncommon centrality in political and cultural life; furthermore, the lack of universities and of institutional documentation in stable archives made the Armenian press the best record of social history available to us.5

  • 6 It was published by Constantinople writer and publisher Teotoros Labdjindjian (1873-1928), best kno (...)
  • 7 V.K. Davidian, 2022. The 1929 edition was published posthumously by Teotig’s friend and fellow-exil (...)

8Almanacs in particular are crafted with that encyclopedic purpose, of which Amēnun Darets‘uyts‘ě – “Everyone’s Almanac”, or sometimes known as “Teotig’s Almanac” – remains an outstanding example.6 Relevant to the theme of this special issue, from 1924, “Teotig’s Almanac” was published outside of the new republic of Turkey (1924 in Paris, 1925 in Vienna, 1926 in Venice, and, 1927-1929 again in Paris), “mirroring their editor’s peripatetic existence”.7 Here is an uprooted Armenian-language periodical – a frequent case for political serials from the late 19th century onwards that should not obfuscate the constitutive diasporic nature of the Armenian periodical press.

  • 8 On the origins of Armenian print, see R. H. Kévorkian, 1986, and Armenian book printing in the 16-1 (...)
  • 9 E. Baykal, 2019, pp. 15-16, p. 30; for the late 19th-century: J. Strauss, 2005.

9The history of the Armenian-language press was exogenous to Armenia as a political entity/space in the first place – just like Armenian print –, long before this trend was tragically accelerated by the Armenian Genocide.8 The first-ever Armenian-language periodical, Aztarar (“The Monitor”), was published in classical Armenian (krapar) in British-controlled Madras (India) in 1794 by Father Shmavonian. Despite its short life (18 issues, 1794-1796) and mixed reception on the part of the Armenian merchant-diaspora of India, it shaped the long history of the Armenian press, in articulating questions of language and national identity. The last issue of Aztarar included an engraving of an air-balloon, which metaphorically sketched the forthcoming journey of the Armenian-language press. Within a few years indeed, these issues were further articulated by Armenian-language titles within the Ottoman Empire, where the majority of Armenians then lived and where the Armenian-language press contributed to the development of an Ottoman press in a multi-confessional, multilingual Empire where journalism was largely imported and where non-Muslim communities held a central place.9 Quickly, the Armenian cultural periodical production was also taken up by institutions preserving Armenian culture and language abroad, especially the Mekhitarist congregations in Venice and Vienna, and by “Armenian colonies” wherever they had developed (Russia, Persia, India originally; France, the US, Britain and Switzerland from the 19th century).

  • 10 A. Kharatyan, 1989, pp. 234-296.
  • 11 For instance, L. Khachaturian, 2009, p. 3.

10With the tightening control of Ottoman press control resulting from the 1864 Matbuat Nizamnamesi press law (requiring that a copy be sent to the Press Bureau for inspection and possible censorship), and especially under Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909), the numerous Armenian-language press titles – be they general newspapers, political, literary and cultural reviews, etc. – endured increasing surveillance, which particularly affected language: “freedom”, “rights”, “revolution” and “justice” were routinely stricken out, while Hayasdan (“Armenia”) and Hairenik (“Fatherland”) increasingly became taboo.10 After the unfulfilled promises of a representative Ottoman polity, the development of a more exclusive form of Ottoman nationalism under Abdülhamid II’s reign strengthened a burning feeling for an all-Armenian nationalism on the part of a younger generation of Armenian nationalists in the 1880s, especially in the diasporic communities. The Armenian periodical press published across the three historical empires that had a large Armenian population (the Ottoman, Russian and Persian Empires) played a crucial role in articulating Armenian nationalism.11 Rapidly, this was also the case, although to a lesser extent, of titles published in the United States, France and Britain in the 1880s, where Armenian nationalist leaders went into exile. Amongst those, was the irregular weekly Armēnia: lrakir azkayin k‘aghak‘agan aewdragan ew ayln (1885-1923) published by Mgrditch Portugalian (1848-1921), founder of the Armenagan party in Van in 1885, whom the Ottoman government had exiled to Marseilles the same year. The paper was secretly distributed in Ottoman Armenia – giving the party its name – and advocated the liberation of Armenia by force, as well as the return of migrant Armenians (including economic migrants in Constantinople) to provinces of Ottoman Armenia (Van, Sivas, Bitlis, Harput, Diyarbekir, Erzurum), which was conceptualized as “homeland”. Though the party’s line was later challenged by founders of other Armenian parties – the Hunchag (formed in Geneva, 1887) and the Tashnag (formed in Russian Tiflis, 1890) – who, in their own turn, set up periodicals networked throughout these Armenian “colonies”, Portugalian’s Armēnia remained a source of inspiration for many.

  • 12 Musurus Pacha to Home Office, 19 January 1870, quoted in “Case”, Home Office Papers, The National A (...)

11Choosing to publish an Armenian-language periodical abroad is not necessarily a straightforward choice, especially when this is happening outside of Armenian institutions and in countries with a small Armenian population. In the heyday of journalism, allophone press titles faced the same hardships of non-allophone titles, only multiplied. Securing a sustained readership was always an issue to ensure regular funding. Allophone Armenian-language titles often tried to register subscribers worldwide, making their transnational readership a financial asset for the paper’s survival. Allophone titles also had to comply with the local press laws of the country where they appeared – which could be stricter. In the Ottoman era, allophone Armenian-language press titles also had to face pressures by Ottoman consuls in foreign countries, who considered the press of Ottoman minorities – no matter where it appeared – as being under Ottoman jurisdiction, especially as such titles often circulated in the Ottoman Empire.12 Printing in Armenian also raised a practical problem, common to non-Latin script presses: accessing types. When the editorial team possessed none, this implied deals with printers, who could charge exorbitant prices and who sometimes lacked sufficiently qualified staff to compose in spotless Armenian.

  • 13 The AGBU Nubar Library has digitized the near complete run of Le Foyer : http://bnulibrary.org/inde (...)

12But despite difficulties, editorial teams rarely considered giving up on publishing in Armenian, whereby an Armenian-language edition was conceived to structure and bolster up Armenian nationalism locally, but also transnationally. While in the context of second or third-generation immigrants, periodical print tends to lessen the portion of Armenian (see in this special issue, Sophie Toulajian’s analysis of Hay Baykar) – a tendency common to other allophone periodicals in such circumstances –, debates over publishing in Armenian or in the publication country’s language already existed in the nineteenth century and could lead to vivid debates as to whether publishing in Armenian was absolutely required to uphold Armenianness, or whether local languages, or sometimes cosmopolitan languages like French and English, could serve the same purpose, while making the Armenian cause more accessible. In such instances – such as Maseats‘ Aghawni/La Colombe du Massis (Paris, 1855-1858; Theodosia, 1860-1865), Le Haïasdan/ Hayasdan (London, 1888-1892), Le Foyer, organe des Arméniens réfugiés en France (1928-1932) –, bilingualism was sometimes experienced.13

  • 14 E. Haque, 2016; B. Anderson, 1991, especially p. 63.
  • 15 K. Tölölyan, 1999.

13Language has always been central to theories of nationalism, and in Imagined Communities (1983), Benedict Anderson even argued that the economy of print, especially periodical print, was not only central to the development of a national consciousness, but also to the standardization of a language that he saw as interconnected with nationalism.14 Surely, Armenian periodical print, especially in diaspora, was central to the elaboration of ashkharhapar (New Armenian), away from krapar, from the mid-19th century, in the context of the Armenian national Awakening (Zartonk). Literature in periodical print plays a pivotal role in this process, with Khachig Tölölyan qualifying Armenians as a “textual nation”.15

  • 16 N. Karamanoukian, 2021; T. Chahinian, 2023.
  • 17 K. Beledian, 1995.

14As this special issue fully demonstrates, especially Krikor Beledian’s interview on neologisms, the Armenian language in the context of Armenian-language periodical print is much more than this, especially in the face of unfathomable genocidal violence, whereby whatever remained of the Armenian language, now “stateless” and in its Western Armenian variety “cut”,16 was faced with endless, possibly still enduring challenges: recording what is lost and what can be still saved, narrating the unspeakable through neologisms and bricolages, throwing bonds with other Armenians in exile, translating new socio-cultural/political/linguistic realities in diasporic context (see Janine Bedrossian’s text), operating as key to the past and therapy, inventing new worlds (see articles by Lerna Ekmekcioglu and by Vahé Tachjian), and still looking forward to remaining alive and stimulating, despite all.17 Just like the periodical print paper – or now web page, screen, etc. – the Armenian language becomes a surface offering a myriad of possibilities/combinations, in terms of vocabulary, syntax, punctuation, but also typography (see here discussions by Krikor Beledian and Sophie Toulajian).

  • 18 A. Ter Minassian, 1995; C. Mouradian and A. Kunth, 2010; A. Kunth, 2016; B. Adjemian, 2020.
  • 19 For the US, see for instance: T. Huebener, 1959, pp. 200-201; E. Hunter, 1960, e.g. p. 30. Of note, (...)
  • 20 With its near 6,000 titles, the anglophone press in France has a long tradition, going back to 1760 (...)

15The resulting dispersion of Armenians – also in the context of the short-lived independent Republic of Armenia (1918-1920), later integrated into Soviet Russia following the Alexandropol Treaty (December 1920) – resulted in a booming number of diasporic Armenian-language periodicals in the interwar period. In between 1917-1935, c.40-50 new titles were set up every year throughout the world, with 1919 being a skyrocketing year (113 new titles). While the Armenian American community grew to become the largest Armenian diasporic community – and so the number of diasporic titles there increased –, France held a similar special role in Europe for Armenian exiles and many “petites Arménies” emerged (Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, Valence, Montpellier, etc.).18 If in both countries, the allophone press was never completed off local/national authorities’ radar – copies were often kept and the idea that foreign-language periodicals were suspect was never far19 –, the Armenian diasporic press could nonetheless find a favorable terrain in France (with other two hundred titles published), where there was a long-established tradition of allophone publishing.20

The French Experience of the Armenian Press

  • 21 In an interesting comparison, Armēnia, in its inaugural 1885 issue, lists two separate subscription (...)

16Throughout its long history, the Armenian-language press of France has served both as a witness to the evolution of the French-Armenian community and as a facilitator of its various tides of negotiated belonging with France and the Armenian world. On the cover of the 1927 French-Armenian almanac, Fransahay Darekirk‘, published by Massis Press, the 383-page yearbook is listed as selling for 20 Francs per copy in France and for 25 Francs abroad. Ardasahman, the Armenian word used for “abroad”, can be interpreted in multiple directions, capturing the new designations of belonging being cultivated through print culture for Armenians in dispersion.21 While the content of the almanac presents a history of Armenians in France, spotlights active French-Armenian organizations, and contains advertisements for French-Armenian businesses, the cover’s price listing offers a playful dance of words, likely unintentionally, that reveal the newly forming, dual loyalties of the community. On the one hand, the pairing of France with Abroad implies that the latter refers generally to countries that lie outside the borders of the former, thus certifying France as a new home. On the other hand, within the post-genocide Armenian context, ardasahman contains transnational undertones, referring to the network of exiled communities spread across the world. In fact, during the interwar years, before the circulation of the word sp‘iwṛk‘ (“diaspora”) gained currency, ardasahmani hayut‘iwn (“Armenians abroad”) was used as a political designation marking the migrant and refugee population who ended up outside of Turkey or Soviet Armenia. Here, simultaneously forged and represented as a category in print, Armenians abroad become institutionalized as the French-Armenian community’s interlocutors, a process that also inevitably consolidates the local community as a collective, as a whole.

  • 22 M. S. Mandel, 2003, p. 21.
  • 23 For a discussion of the post-genocide Armenian refugee population and their patterns of arrival and (...)
  • 24 M. S. Mandel, 2003, p. 21.
  • 25 A. Kunth, 2015, 2017 and 2023.
  • 26 For a theoretical discussion of the Armenian-language press and the emergence of a diasporic collec (...)

17Indeed, the estimated 65,00022 Armenians who sought refuge in France following the genocide and Mustafa Kemal’s subsequent ascension to power comprised of socio-economically and culturally diverse survivors. Among the arrivals were orphans from disparate villages of Anatolia or Cilicia, exiled intellectuals like writers, editors, and educators mainly from Constantinople or Smyrna, and ex-political leaders who had previously resided in the Balkans.23 In contrast to the pre-genocide waves of Armenian expats, which comprised mostly of students and merchants, the new group of refugees’ arrival under much less privileged circumstances and in greater numbers carried a political framing from the start. Their politicized status as refugees within the host society and the pluralistic nature of their internal composition found consolidation in print. Within the space of the Armenian-language press, in the process of seeing a reflection of shared concerns and interest, they came to identify themselves as French-Armenians within a new polity. Discussing Armenian integration into French society and remarking on the refugee population’s lack of international documentation in the initial years of their settlement, historian Maud S. Mandel critiques France’s “state-centered and assimilationist model of civic self-definition and governance” that “shaped the incorporation of ethnic and religious minorities into the state” and suggests that the case of Armenian Genocide survivors provides us with “a clear example of conscious and directed attempts to extinguish foreign distinctiveness through the implementation of state policy.”24 Historian Anouche Kunth concurs, also mentioning the French administration’s anti-foreigners’ bias.25 What Mandel and Kunth identify as a citizenship policy that sought to wash away the transnational aspects of the Armenians’ identity was, in fact, finding expression in the Armenian-language press. Through having representation in a print medium, while the community consolidated around the idea of being French-Armenian, they also developed a more transnational consciousness of belonging to a single node in a wider Armenian worldwide network.26

  • 27 Stepan Voskanian, “Ḥaṛachapan” [Preface], Arewelk‘, 1 (1), 1 July 1855, p. 2.
  • 28 Stepan Voskanian, “Ḥaṛachapan” [Preface], Arewmudk‘, 1 (1), 1 January 1859, p. 1.
  • 29 Arshag Chobanian, “Taraklukh” [Turn of the Century], Anahid, 1 (1), November 1898, p. 6. Note that (...)
  • 30 C. Mouradian (ed.), 2007; M. S. Mandel, 2003, p. 26.

18As a result of the French-Armenian community’s changing demographics following the genocide, World War I presents us with the clearest marker for periodization. The French-Armenian press from the mid-19th century to World War I can be classified within the rubric cosmopolitan nationalism. During this period, both the congregation of intellectual life and the production of periodicals such as Arewelk‘ (1855), Arewmudk‘ (1859), Armēnia (1885), Anahid (1898), L’Arménie (1889) occurred in the service of national liberation. In other words, the aim of these publications pursued a dual drive of a) mobilizing Armenians around the concept of nation in order to raise awareness of Western Armenians’ plight in the Ottoman Empire and b) to place the Armenian literary and cultural legacy within the international framework of world literature and culture, albeit imagined through a Eurocentric gaze. In Arewelk‘’s inaugural editorial, its founder Stepan Voskanian, highlights “Armenians’ enlightenment” as the journal’s principle aim.27 A few years later in his subsequent paper, Arewmudk‘’s inaugural editorial, he claims that the periodical’s goal is “to free the minds of its readers and thereby, to enlighten the nation.”28 In Anahid’s opening article, the monthly journal’s editor, Arshag Chobanian, calls for cultivating the realm of the letters, which he frames as “the highest expression of the nation’s soul,” in order for it “to be capable of holding a place of honor within the Cradle of Humanity (martgayin vosdan).”29 In all three instances, the periodicals have an illuminating impetus and are clearly positioned in service of the nation. By the turn of the century, Chobanian’s efforts were equally concentrated on engaging the French public, particularly politicians, to defend the rights of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire and to pressure the Ottoman sultanate to enact reforms for the Armenian population living in the empire’s eastern provinces. His colleague, Minas Cheraz, who was similarly devoted to efforts of internationalizing the Armenian Question, founded a French-language periodical, L’Arménie, to raise political awareness of the Armenians’ plight. In their efforts of outreach, both Chobanian and Cheraz were keen on introducing Armenian culture and literature to their French contemporaries, with the main aim of showcasing Armenians as proprietors of an ancient civilization. Notwithstanding the political impotence of this project, the movement did succeed in creating an Armenophile movement in France, which culminated in the gathering of pro-Armenian activists within the Société France-Arménie, established in 1916.30

  • 31 K. Beledian, 2001, p. 31.

19Following World War I, print culture played a central role in fashioning urban spaces into intellectual centers of the dispersed Armenian population, and due to the sheer volume of production in this regard, Paris became a competing cultural site within the newly emerging diaspora. In his encyclopedic volume, Cinquante ans de littérature arménienne en France: Du même à l’autre, Krikor Beledian surveys French-Armenian literary production from 1922-1970, demarcating a heightened period of post-genocide, Armenian-language production that also coincides with similarly vibrant activity in the press. Indeed, though not a comprehensive list, the book’s index identifies 50 noteworthy Armenian-language periodicals published in France during this period. Most scholars agree that of this period, Shavarsh Misakian’s newspaper Ḥaṛach, established in 1925, stands out in its representative value. Especially during the first decade of its publication, Ḥaṛach, as Beledian states, “collect[ed] the entire history of the community” and provided a collage of information about the community it sought to represent.31 Beyond its archival value, Ḥaṛach filled a real void within the new refugee population of France by serving as a community center. The newspaper’s headquarters was often listed as a center for communication where demographic data about the population’s settlement patterns, towns of origin, and lost cultural practices could be sent to. In return, the newspaper published advertisements that sought to connect lost relatives, inform the public of organizational meetings, and support local Armenian businesses. Beyond its basic news reporting function of addressing local French news, international politics, local Armenian news, and transnational Armenian politics, the newspaper also served as a space for creation. In its pages, novels of the new generation of writers were published in serial form, as well as criticism of contemporary literary and artistic life, offering the exiled voices the semblance of institutional backing and validation of their public discourse. This was all the more legitimizing because Ḥaṛach had established modes of disseminating its papers globally and was quickly building an international audience.

  • 32 Editorial, “Miut‘iwn” [Unity], Abakay, February 5, 1921, p. 1.

20During this period, clubs and organizations began publishing their specialized periodicals, and as their editorials suggest, they similarly envisioned a transnationally networked audience of Armenian readers. As the globally dispersed Armenian reading public became increasingly aware of the dispersion’s expanse, intellectuals called for the scattered communities to form a united front around Armenian national interests. A 1921 editorial titled “Unity” of Abakay, the official newspaper of the Ramgavar political party, critiques the calls for unity for the outside gaze of the international community and bluntly asks, “To unite. But how? And around what?”32 While here, the question concerns the post-World War I politics around the Armenian Question, more broadly speaking, the lure of unity was deceivingly promising for Armenians scattered around the world. The concept of unity gestured toward assembly, while at the same time it built an ambiguous expectation of shared interests. Dislocated Armenians from various Ottoman provinces were placed in a new proximity with one another, and were asked, for the first time, to consider themselves as part of a singular unit. More dangerously, the calls for unity began to build a false assumption of homogeneity that reflected neither the cultural diversity of the survivors nor the incongruities among the host nations’ integration policies. The objective of a united front, practically speaking, was unattainable for the re-emerging institutions that represented a heterogeneous population. Nevertheless, it remained the guiding ideology of collective survival in the aftermath of the genocide that was perpetuated in the press.

  • 33 “Nor Hawadk‘ě” [The New Faith], Nor Hawadk’, 1, June 1924, p. 1.
  • 34 Mēg Janabarh Miayn” [One Path Only], Hay Kir, 5 (1929), p. 1.

21The literary front reflects a more nuanced cultivation of the concept of unity, which translated in concerted efforts of forging new literati. Whether it was for emergent groups that gathered writers around literature and the arts or collaborative projects between former colleagues or friends, the periodical print world, in its promise of continuity, offered an antidote to the problem of generation that the surviving youth, known as the orphaned generation, faced. Through the founding of generally short-lived journals, they turned to their now stateless linguistic form, Western Armenian, as a generator of collective identities. Some journals took an alarmist approach and framed new literary production as a preservationist move. The inaugural editorial of Bedros Zaroyan’s and Zareh Vorpuni’s 1924 Nor Hawadk‘ states, “Tragic events, like strikes of an ax, cut up the years following the war. A generation was to reveal itself during this time. The dispersion is a second death, a moral and intellectual affliction. It is not an untimely alarm that we’re sounding when we say that the new generation is living through a period that has an uncertain, dare we say mournful, end.”33 Similarly, Hay Kir comments on the problem of regeneration by claiming, “Our new generation is experiencing a terrible famine of national consciousness. It is neither a lie nor an exaggeration to say that whatever color we give this famine, it is more tragic than the massacre of the blade. It is the masterpiece of the dreadful crime that our history already once witnessed.”34 Both statements equate the physical loss of the parent generation to the loss of collective memory, resulting in the lack of national consciousness. In doing so, they define dispersion as the masterpiece of the massacres—in other words, as a cultural genocide that can only be repaired through new production in the print medium.

  • 35 “Mer Tirk‘ě” [Our Position], Ergunk‘, 1 (2), May 1929, p. 1.
  • 36 Hrant Palouyan, “Jagadin Vray” [On the Front], Zuart‘nots‘, 1 (1), January 1929, p. 1.

22Other journals sought to appropriate orphanhood as a marker of unity and rebrand it as a position full of potential rather than of loss. The 1929 editorial of Ergunk‘, the publication of the Association of Adult Orphans, co-founded by Shavarsh Nartuni, exclaims, “Long live the new generation! Especially the multitude we call orphans!”35 Orphanhood carried currency in its capacity both to rally young thinkers around it and to be configured as national allegory in writing. Soon, the literary communities that developed within this brand began to critically examine the position of their literary output vis-à-vis the generation that preceded them before the 1915 rupture and often adopted an antagonistic stance in their regard. First published in 1929, Zuart‘nots‘ was a product of Ḥartkogh, a society for art and literature, and was the first journal solely devoted to showcasing the literary works of the orphaned generation. In its inaugural editorial entitled “On the Front,” the journal’s editor Hrant Palouyan writes, “Zuart‘nots‘ is shelter also to those youth, who are held captive in the hands of our literature’s aged caretakers. For a long time, our youth didn’t have their stage, their window of independence, so that they could avoid bowing their heads like children seeking validation and avoid kissing literary rust.”36

  • 37 Shavarsh Nartuni, “Menk, Menk, Menk” [We, We, We], Menk‘, 1, 1931, p. 39.

23Generational antagonism became a topic of heated debate in the press. Surviving figures from the pre-genocide generation, like Zabel Yesayan and Kostan Zarian, penned articles in Ḥaṛach and Boston’s Hayrenik Monthly demanding that the young writers humble themselves and clarify their literary platform. No literary periodical was as impactful in inciting fervent debate as the journal Menk‘, around which some of the most prominent figures of the orphaned generation congregated. The group proposed a notion of radical literary production that called not only for contemporaneous writing, but also for discontinuity from the Western Armenian literary tradition developed in Constantinople prior to World War I. In the journal’s first issue, Shavarsh Nartuni writes, “We will once again come forth in order to reveal the destitution of those writers, who came to Europe and sold us imitation Western goods. Our political failure is the result of a false literary orientation. It was our old literature, which came from Europe, that ruined our home. Now, we’re in Europe, and every day, we see where those goods came from.”37 Informed by a political view that recognized the imbalance of power in the production of knowledge in the world, they accused the pre-genocide writers of showing a false closeness to the culture of the West and thereby blamed them for their current crisis of identity.

  • 38 See for instance Tigrane Yégaevian’s interview on Bun TV: “Fransahay Mamul: Erēg ew Aysōr” [The Fre (...)

24World War II temporarily halted the rapid expansion of Armenian-language print media. Following the war, while new publications continued to emerge, the space of public discourse took a turn away from a wide spectrum of cultural interests ranging from literature to architecture and toward the political. Led by party politics, the Cold War era heightened the dispersed Armenians’ political divisions by demanding clear articulations of loyalty toward either Soviet Armenia or the newly emerging concept of an Armenian diaspora that aligned itself with the notion of return to an imagined, unified homeland. This politicized divide, not unique to France, guided much of diaspora’s publishing program in the decades to come. The post-World War II phase of production tends to come to an end in the early 1980s, when the dwindling number of Armenian speakers calls for a shift toward French-language Armenian media, which can be referred to as hayasēr (Armenian oriented) press, as opposed to the earlier hayadaṛ (in Armenian alphabet) press.38 While language (through print media) is usually considered the key facilitator of cultivating collective Armenian identity in the early years of dispersion, the press falls short of functioning as a substitute for Armenian schools (a movement that flourished in the Middle East but not in Europe) in ensuring the language’s vitality across generations.

  • 39 The literary supplement, Midk‘ ew aruesd, was reedited by A. Totoyan and K. Beledian in two volumes (...)

25As our modes of accessing and exchanging information change drastically in the digital age, print media in general and the very idea of “news” in particular await new definitions. In the Armenian world, the idea of the classical “community newspaper” similarly faces an existential crisis. An Armenian Republic, now in its fourth decade since independence, produces media outlets that imagine both an internal, national audience and a global, diasporic audience. The Armenian diaspora, on the other hand, having experienced waves of migration in the last several decades, emerges as a hybrid space consisting of both Eastern and Western Armenian speakers, as well as non-Armenian speakers, who nevertheless are eager to stay informed with the Armenian world. The plural affiliations harbored in these new layers of diasporic formation, coupled with the Internet’s “democratizing” lure, have demoted the classical media institutions to obsoletism and demand online sites that operate across various platforms. In France, the beloved Ḥaṛach closed its operations in 2009, also ending the publication of its literary supplement Midk ew Aruesd (1976-2009).39 In its void, a bilingual French-Armenian tri-weekly called Nor Ḥaṛach (“New Harach”) was established and currently hosts a website that offers news segments that adapts to newer modes of news consumption, by offering curated video content in addition to its press. Just like many Armenian media outlets today, Nor Ḥaṛach online publishes both in Western and Eastern Armenian. On the whole, the adjustments made by Nor Ḥaṛach speak to the challenges faced by a French-Armenian press title with a global readership in the digital age.

*

26This special issue proposes case studies of Armenian-language serials published in France across the 20th century. Three contributions discussing the transnational strategy of political organs (see texts by Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, Sophie Toulajian and Vahé Tachjian), while texts by Tork Dalalyan and Janine Bedrossian address issues of language and culture preservation, as well as revitalisation. Krikor Beledian’s interview on neologisms in the Armenian-language press of France completes this issue.

27In her article, Lerna Ekmekçioğlu analyses a most fascinating chapter of Armenian Communist women’s history, that of the Fransahay Ganants‘ Miut‘iwn (“Union des femmes arméniennes”). Born in 1942 as an underground organization fighting in the French Resistance, it switched to promoting various “national” (azkayin) agendas (such as the preservation of the Armenian language and culture, organization of summer camps for the children of the Armenian poor, financially assisting the families of the fallen resistance fighters, and commemorating the life of Louisa Aslanian – LAS –, its founder) in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Ekmekcioglu concentrates on the organ’s mouthpiece Hai Guine (“Armenian Woman”), published from March 1947 to 1949, which has long been off scholars’ radar and which worked somewhat like a propaganda tool for what they usually called nerkaght (“in-migration”) or azkahavak (“in-gathering of the nation”). Ekmekcioglu argues that dismissing this women’s journal as the mouthpiece of Stalin’s calls would not do justice to its feminist aim and content.

28Vahé Tachjian’s presentation of HOG gives a broader context to Armenian Communism in France. Launched in Paris in 1933, HOG was the organ of the “Aid to Armenia Committee” (Hay Oknut‘ean Gomidē, HOG), a humanitarian organization established in Erevan in 1921 to aid genocide survivors now settled in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Tachjian analyses how HOG, a Communist weekly with strong ties to the Soviet authorities in Armenia, served as the latter’s propaganda organ. In that capacity, HOG aimed to direct the Armenian diaspora’s resources towards the Armenian Soviet Republic and promote nerkaght, while fighting opponents of Soviet Armenia, especially the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Tashnagtsutyun).

29Sophie Toulajian’s article on Hay Baykar (“Armenian struggle”, 1977-1988) addresses a more contemporary period, that of the post-50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the campaign for world recognition. Hay Baykar was the organ of the newly born Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) in France and was thus instrumental in that struggle. Toulajian situates Hay Baykar in the mediatic landscape of post-1968 France and analyses it as being both a community organ and a protest counter-culture periodical that sought to offer the Armenian community in France a new path that would leave behind the old division (pro v. anti- Soviet Union). In so doing, Toulajian also attracts our attention to language choice, since Hay Baykar mostly appeared in French, which was also a way to reach out to sympathetic far-left circles like Libération.

30In her detailed presentation of Hay Pouj, an Armenian-language medical review published over thirty years (1934-1967), Janine Bedrossian gives us to see another facet of indefatigable Shavarsh Nartuni (1898-1968), an Armenian doctor and writer who refuged himself in France in 1923 and remains best known for his contributions to other Armenian periodicals, like Ergunk‘, Menk‘, or Ḥaṛach. Perhaps more than anywhere else, Nartuni developed his ideas for national and cultural preservation and thriving in Hay Pouj, which remained very much a one-man venture. But there, he did so mostly by brokering recent medical news and prophylactic advice to Armenian readers in a literary style and in so doing trying to keep the Armenian language apace with these new medical realities that Armenians living in France could encounter. In so doing, he tackled head on the question of how language could adjust both to reflect and help understand the past, and to approach exiled contemporary life in France.

31Tork Dalalyan’s text pursues that reflection by looking at the linguistic enterprise undertaken by Shavarsh Missakian (1884-1957) through Ḥaṛach (“Go Forward”), especially in its early years (1925-1957). With references to Nartuni’s homage of services rendered by Ḥaṛach, Dalalyan analyzes Missakian’s attempts at “purifying” Western Armenian from Turkish elements and at adjusting it for its operating in a new homeland, here France.

32Articles in this special issue are given heightened relief by Krikor Beledian’s interview on neologisms in the Armenian-language press of France. While the post-1915 dispersion of Armenians impacted the Armenian language and spurred neologisms, Beledian reminds us that this process was not born with the genocide. Rather, Beledian invites us to regard neologisms not simply as a result of violence, but rather as a life principle of any language, of its capacity for openness to the world – a capacity that is all the more endangered for languages whose speakers have a communal history of annihilation. In a fascinating interview, Beledian suggests that we look at neologisms like “thresholds” to manyfold realities, operating through time (giving access to the past, present and futures) and space (throughout the diaspora), that was visceral to the experience of French Armenian-language press writing.

Մասեաց Աղաւնի La Colombe du Massis
Revue publiée à Paris par Gabriel Ayvazian (1855-1858)
Première année, numéro 1

Collection Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB, Paris

Անահիտ (Anahid)
Revue littéraire publiée à Paris par Archag Tchobanian
(1898-1911, 1929-1940 et 1946-1949)

Collection Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB, Paris

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Note de fin

1 Organised on 7 November 2019 by Boris Adjemian, Talar Chahinian, Mélanie Keledjian and Stéphanie Prévost. http://www.inalco.fr/evenement/journee-etude-presse-langue-armenienne-france

2 G. Levonyan, 1934; H. Petrosyan, 1956; K. Mooradian, 1963; A. Kirakossian, 1970; J. Gharibian, 2012; M. Babloyan, 1986; A. Kharatyan, 1989; N. Hayrapetyan, 1999.

3 In France, collections can be found at: the AGBU Nubar Library (Paris), the Bibliothèque nationale (Paris) and the BULAC (Paris), the Armenian Apostolic Church Library (Paris), the Association pour la recherche et l’archivage de la mémoire arménienne (ARAM, Marseille) and the Centre National de la Mémoire Arménienne (Décines). Ḥaṛach was digitized through a partnership between ARAM and the BULAC https://webaram.com/en/biblio/presse/haratch-%D5%B5%D5%A1%D5%BC%D5%A1%D5%BB#decennie-2000. Other digitization projects are ongoing, such as the Pan-Armenian Digital Library (https://arar.sci.am/dlibra/collectiondescription/10) or the Armenian National Library’s Catalogue of Periodical Resources http://tert.nla.am/.

4 On a general history: A. Kharatyan, 2006. For the Russian Empire: L. Khachaturian, 2009; L. Pendse, 2019. For France, see especially: K. Beledian, 2001; C. Mouradian, 1999; C. Mouradian and A. Kunth, 2010; A. Atamian, 2014; B. Adjemian, 2020. For Egypt: M. Esoyan, 2023. For the US: S. Payaslian, 2023. For Britain: H. Kalapyan, 2023; S. Prévost, 2024.

5 See J. Gharibian, 2012.

6 It was published by Constantinople writer and publisher Teotoros Labdjindjian (1873-1928), best known as Teotig, and his wife and intellectual Arshagouhi Teotig (née Djezvedjian, 1875-1922). See Vazken K. Davidian, “An Encyclopaedic Compendium of Everything Ottoman Armenian: Reading Teotig’s Everyone’s Almanac through the Prism of Art and Cultural History”, Conference Paper, UCI Center for Armenian Studies, Irvine, California, 2 November 2022.

7 V.K. Davidian, 2022. The 1929 edition was published posthumously by Teotig’s friend and fellow-exile Nshan Beshigtashlian (1898-1972).

8 On the origins of Armenian print, see R. H. Kévorkian, 1986, and Armenian book printing in the 16-17th century Ottoman Empire: R. H. Kévorkian, 1999. For a challenge of this historicity by Young Turks in 1912, see J. Strauss, 2005, p. 234.

9 E. Baykal, 2019, pp. 15-16, p. 30; for the late 19th-century: J. Strauss, 2005.

10 A. Kharatyan, 1989, pp. 234-296.

11 For instance, L. Khachaturian, 2009, p. 3.

12 Musurus Pacha to Home Office, 19 January 1870, quoted in “Case”, Home Office Papers, The National Archives, Kew, London, HO 45/94721/A38025, unnumbered folio.

13 The AGBU Nubar Library has digitized the near complete run of Le Foyer : http://bnulibrary.org/index.php/fr/periodiques/le-foyer.

14 E. Haque, 2016; B. Anderson, 1991, especially p. 63.

15 K. Tölölyan, 1999.

16 N. Karamanoukian, 2021; T. Chahinian, 2023.

17 K. Beledian, 1995.

18 A. Ter Minassian, 1995; C. Mouradian and A. Kunth, 2010; A. Kunth, 2016; B. Adjemian, 2020.

19 For the US, see for instance: T. Huebener, 1959, pp. 200-201; E. Hunter, 1960, e.g. p. 30. Of note, French National Archives retain many files on the political Armenian-language press from the 1880s, with a strong representation of the Communist press attached to HOG.

20 With its near 6,000 titles, the anglophone press in France has a long tradition, going back to 1760 (D. Cooper-Richet, 2014; “Language Matters” exhibition curated by Bénédicte Deschamps and Stéphanie Prévost, 2018, Bibliothèque des Grands Moulins, Université Paris Cité, and 2023 online at https://www.language-matters.fr/). It is however far from being the only allophone press. The recent exhibition “Ces journaux des diasporas qui ont fait la presse parisienne” at the BULAC, Paris (Nicolas Pitsos, 2022, https://bina.bulac.fr/item/150504) shows the variety of the twentieth-century Parisian allophone press, thereby furthering earlier works (Génériques, 1999; D. Cooper-Richet, 2011). These works offer points of comparison, but also highlight the specificity of each language group in relation to its print culture and history.

21 In an interesting comparison, Armēnia, in its inaugural 1885 issue, lists two separate subscription costs, one for France (20 Francs) and another for readers in Turkey and Russia (23 Francs), hinting at the main locales where Armenian populations were concentrated in the 19th century. The almanac’s contemporary publications like Ḥaṛach and Abakay on the other hand, in the 1920s, evade the binary designation of France and Abroad, and instead offer one price for France and other prices for communities separately listed as America, England, Egypt or Europe.

22 M. S. Mandel, 2003, p. 21.

23 For a discussion of the post-genocide Armenian refugee population and their patterns of arrival and settlement, see L. Chormisian, 1975, pp. 65-81.

24 M. S. Mandel, 2003, p. 21.

25 A. Kunth, 2015, 2017 and 2023.

26 For a theoretical discussion of the Armenian-language press and the emergence of a diasporic collective identity/ diasporic collective identities, see for instance : M. Hovanessian, 2007, especially pp. 15 and 19 ; M. Hovanessian, 1998.

27 Stepan Voskanian, “Ḥaṛachapan” [Preface], Arewelk‘, 1 (1), 1 July 1855, p. 2.

28 Stepan Voskanian, “Ḥaṛachapan” [Preface], Arewmudk‘, 1 (1), 1 January 1859, p. 1.

29 Arshag Chobanian, “Taraklukh” [Turn of the Century], Anahid, 1 (1), November 1898, p. 6. Note that Chobanian uses the word ts‘egh (literally meaning “race”) to denote nation, whereas Voskanian uses the more modern rendition, azk.

30 C. Mouradian (ed.), 2007; M. S. Mandel, 2003, p. 26.

31 K. Beledian, 2001, p. 31.

32 Editorial, “Miut‘iwn” [Unity], Abakay, February 5, 1921, p. 1.

33 “Nor Hawadk‘ě” [The New Faith], Nor Hawadk’, 1, June 1924, p. 1.

34 Mēg Janabarh Miayn” [One Path Only], Hay Kir, 5 (1929), p. 1.

35 “Mer Tirk‘ě” [Our Position], Ergunk‘, 1 (2), May 1929, p. 1.

36 Hrant Palouyan, “Jagadin Vray” [On the Front], Zuart‘nots‘, 1 (1), January 1929, p. 1.

37 Shavarsh Nartuni, “Menk, Menk, Menk” [We, We, We], Menk‘, 1, 1931, p. 39.

38 See for instance Tigrane Yégaevian’s interview on Bun TV: “Fransahay Mamul: Erēg ew Aysōr” [The French-Armenian Press: Yesterday and Today], 7 September 2018, https://boon.am/french-press/

39 The literary supplement, Midk‘ ew aruesd, was reedited by A. Totoyan and K. Beledian in two volumes, respectively published in 2018 and 2020.

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Talar Chahinian et Stéphanie Prévost, « Transnational Identities in Print: The Armenian-Language Press of France in a Global Perspective »Études arméniennes contemporaines, 15 | 2023, 7-29.

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Talar Chahinian et Stéphanie Prévost, « Transnational Identities in Print: The Armenian-Language Press of France in a Global Perspective »Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 15 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2024, consulté le 17 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eac/3344 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/eac.3344

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Talar Chahinian

University of California, Irvine

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Stéphanie Prévost

Université Paris Cité/Institut universitaire de France

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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