Daily life of Armenians before 1915: Local histories, dialects, letters and more, on Houshamadyan website

by Azad Alik

Houshamadyan is a website project to reconstruct daily life and social environment of the Ottoman Armenians before 1915. The project’s research areas include social history, the history of daily life, local microhistory, dialects, music, literature and material culture. The collection and preservation of culturally valuable artifacts of all kinds produced by the Ottoman Armenians such as musical recordings of historical value, old photographs, pictures, old film footage, oral history recordings etc. are of special importance. Similarly printed books, periodical publications and archival material, or papers in individual collections such as correspondence, unpublished notes, official documents, autobiographical details are important source for Houshamadyan.

Houshamadyan places great importance on individual’s archives to enrich the project. Historian Dr. Vahe Tachjian who initiated Houshamadyan, invites each visitor to share his or her personal archives, photographs, books, memoirs and any kind of information that… would shed light on Armenian daily life in Ottoman Empire.

The first place chosen by Houshamadyan is the district of Palu with its surrounding villages. Articles and photographs about Palu’s local history, interethnic relations, geography, agricultural activities, social structure and also sound recordings of local songs in Palu can be found on the website.

The website project is run by Houshamadyan Association, founded in Berlin, Germany.

An excerpt from Houshamadyan website, history of Havav

HAVAV

In his book, Dikran Papazian writes the history of his village on many pages, the Ottoman portion of which begins in the 18th century. It is a history mixed with legends that obviously has included the village’s oral history that has been transmitted from one generation to the next, reaching the author. What is clearly seen in it is the beys’ dominant presence in this environment. It is interesting that Papazian uses the appellation ‘Turk’ rather than ‘Kurd’ that, at first sight might seem incorrect, but we think that he has used it knowingly. In other memorial books the word dadjig is used indiscriminately for all Muslim populations, be they Turkish, Kurdish or Arab. Thus we think that Papazian’s word ‘Turkish’ has a similar, general meaning.

Havav appears in this environment as a village full of Armenians that is also subject to the area’s Kurdish bey. The villager’s cultivable soil belongs to him and the village pays the tithe to the government. But in this history spanning several centuries we can see that at the same time Havav is struggling against the bey and his successors. The villagers try to stand against the bey’s increased oppression and his attempt to populate the village with Kurds that are loyal to him.

During these years this Armenian-populated village is ruled by influential Armenian meliks who often lead the struggle against the Kurdish bey. It would seem too that the village was a refuge for Armenians from other places. Some of the meliks were not natives of the village itself, but from those in neighbouring areas. In Papazian’s historic narrative successful rebellions are described where the defeated bey resigns from keeping his palace in the village, as well as the plan to settle Kurds in it. But he remains Havav’s bey and the villagers’ cultivable soil remains his. It is to be noted that every time that rebellions have succeeded, Havav has allied itself with neighbouring Kurdish villages. This might mean that in the system created by the beys there were fierce antagonisms, clashes of interests and competition. In these sorts of circumstances, a village like Havav might find people who are dissatisfied in Kurdish circles and ally itself with them with the object of standing against the bey’s arbitrariness. It is also interesting to note the position adopted by the local authority in thse clashes. They often stand with the villagers of Havav in their protests against their bey. This can mean that although the government allowed the existence of the beys’ rule in these areas, at the same time they tried to act as an obstacle to the the beys’ increase in power. Thus in this way a village like Havav would become a tool in the battles between the beys and the local authorities. The rebellions described below may better show these internal relationships.

For more see: http://www.houshamadyan.org/en/mapottomanempire/vilayetdiyarbekir/palu/locale/history.html

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One Comment to “Daily life of Armenians before 1915: Local histories, dialects, letters and more, on Houshamadyan website”

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