Trauma and Identity: On Structural Particularities of Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust


  • Harutyun Marutyan Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography NAS RA; Yerevan State University



Comparison of the Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust memories allows us not only to discuss questions important for Armenian sociopolitical and scientific thought regarding the start of the 21st century, but also for deriving useful lessons. The problems are examined from the point of view of memory studies and identity politics. The internationally recognized term “Holocaust” was used to characterize the Armenian massacres as far back as the end of the 19th century – beginning of the 20th century. The perception of a “unique” Holocaust and “primacy” of the Armenian Genocide in the 20th century are actually different characteristics of the same phenomenon: in the case of examination of the question from this point of view, the factor of “historiographical competitiveness” is gaining a secondary role, although it still exists in different manifestations of the collective memory. Giving priority to the ideological factor in the assessment of the organization and implementation of genocides allows Jews and Armenians alike to avoid the manifestations of ethnic opposition and to appear to the world in a more (from the point of view of Western values) preferable fashion. The Jewish institute of The Righteous Among the Nations cannot serve as a model for Armenians because of the absence of the factor of unselfishness (in a great variety of cases) in the rescue of Armenian lives. In the Jewish, as well as in the Armenian memory, there is a fight against the stereotype of “being slaughtered like sheep”: in the Jewish case, the activities are mostly transferred to the field of “moral resistance”, while in the Armenian case, the resistance of the Armenian people has not been emphasized as has the Jewish struggles, underground fights and rebellions. The process of the Armenian Genocide memory becoming a part of the American national memory in its certain manifestations repeats the approaches of the Jewish community of the United States. There are also some similarities in the case of choosing the sites for memorials, etc.
Comparative historiography of peoples with similar historical fates contributes not only to scientific thought but to our common humanity. In this regard, the comparison of the memories and identity politics of the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust allows us not only to discuss questions that hold value for Armenian sociopolitical and scientific thought of the start of the 21st century regarding the study of Armenian Genocide, but also to derive valuable lessons with far reaching consequences. Most importantly, these lessons contribute to the prevention of future genocide. A number of scholarly articles have been written on the subject of comparison of the Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust, by Armenian, as well as Jewish and American researchers. My task is not to add new research to this list. It is rather to consider how the memories of the Genocide and of Holocaust are perceived, and how they work to stimulate people to act.

Author Biography

Harutyun Marutyan, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography NAS RA; Yerevan State University

Dr. Harutyun Marutyan is a Leading Research Fellow at the Department of Contemporary Anthropological Studies in the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, and Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Yerevan State University. He is author of Iconography of Armenian identity. Volume 1: The Memory of Genocide and the Karabagh Movement (Yerevan, 2009, in Armenian and in English, two different volumes) monograph, for which (and some other articles) in 2012 he became a recipient of the President of the Republic of Armenia Prize (2011) in the nomination of persons having made a valuable contribution to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.


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How to Cite

Marutyan, H. (2014). Trauma and Identity: On Structural Particularities of Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust. International Journal of Armenian Genocide Studies, 1(1), 52–69.