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Vincent Duclert

Vincent Duclert a reçu le 10 juin à Erevan, des mains du Président de la République d'Arménie, le President Prize décerné par un jury international pour sa contribution à la reconnaissance du génocide des Arméniens.

Le texte du discours qu'il a été invité à prononcer :

 


Yerevan, Presidential Office June 10th 2019 



Mister President of the Republic of Armenia,

Dear Founders of Boghossian Foundation and All-Armenian Fund,


I am very grateful and honored for the prize I receive today. Its significance is particularly important as a recognition of my research and for those who have made it possible.

As an historian, being honored by prominent colleagues -I would like to mention Professor Kevorkian and Professor Astourian-, members of the international jury of the President Prize, validates scientific choices that belong, not only to the history of genocide, but also to an idea of responsibility for history, education, humanity and truth.

The Armenians genocide was not my initial field of scientific study. However, throughout my work, research on the genocide has allowed me to keep a promise I made to myself after a unique experience of an historical past in Istanbul over a period of two years, from 1986 to 1988, as a graduate student. During my time in the city and my teaching in its central universities, I encountered the ghosts of the glorious past Armenian society that had been erased as the result of the genocide and the consequence of the continual State persecutions and the ideology of negationism whose origins began with the new Republic of Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire – as exposed Professor Taner Akçam, renowned Turkish scholar in exile. These persecutions still continue and have become deeply entrenched since the assassination of Hrant Dink over ten years ago and with the recent mass imprisonment of democratic intellectuals.

After the end of my stay in Istanbul, I was definitely not the same person who had arrived in the city, on an early September evening full of the heat and the light of the avenue of Istiklal, the former Grande Rue of Péra. The awareness of a lost civilization and a people have shaped who I am today. The city I knew, was a place of absence where only a few very fragile signs survived in Turkey of this lost advanced civilization.

I left Istanbul with the feeling of an immaterial legacy, but I never imagined how crucial this sensitive knowledge would be for my personal growth and for my professional agenda many years later, when, finally, I went to the subject of the genocide. It was a long journey, throughout my initial research: the birth of democratic intellectuals with their fight for justice in the Dreyfus Affair.

The historical investigation I led on the Dreyfus Affair seemed unrelated with my memory of Istanbul and what I learned about the destruction of an entire society. Unrelated, only if we stay in a classic national history, only if we renounce to a critical understanding of the 20th century. Because Dreyfus Affair announced its unthinkable reality when it became possible to sacrifice one person under a rule of racial discrimination. Captain Dreyfus was Jewish, and Jews had been increasingly figured as definitive enemy for those who considered the world, thereafter, as a global war between races for the final destruction of minorities charged by all sins: threat, corruption, treason. This ideology of mass-killing was refused by Dreyfus’s defenders, “the intellectuals”.

By digging deeper, I was able to establish a more immediate connection between the persecution of Dreyfus and the Armenian genocidal process. The same dreyfusard intellectuals did a large previous mobilization for Armenians in the Ottoman Empire where the grand massacres had decimated more than 200 000 men, women, and children, and devastated all Ottoman Armenia except Cilicia. The experience of the Pro-Armenia solidarity in 1895-1897 prepared the dreyfusard movement and made it successful, one year later, with the clear awareness that the rescue of Dreyfus could not have happened without the fight for the Armenians. Georges Clemenceau, Anatole France, Jean Jaurès, Charles Péguy, clearly expressed the relation between the two commitments, and demonstrated how close our history was to the Armenian destiny.

The Dreyfus Affair, which created a universal tradition of justice and launched a new historical era, found its origins in the individual and collective refusal of the destruction of a nation ordered by racial ideology and Raison d’Etat. Saving Armenians at the end of the 19th century was a solemn issue for many French and European writers, scientists, artists, academics, lawyers, journalists, ….. as Jean Jaurès emphasized in November 1896, a lone voice in the French house of Parliament: “we must save the Armenians”. It was the beginning of substantial publications which questioned the resilience of the intellectual fights for Armenian humanity along the 20th century.

The connected histories were lost after the first World War when Armenian past and present in Turkey disappeared due to the consequences of the 1915 genocide and the resignation of the Allies. France itself lost an important part of its own history by forgetting the dreyfusard solidarities for Armenians. After the unique May 24th 1915 Declaration of France, Russia and Great Britain denouncing the Young Turks’ crimes against humanity and civilization, nothing was done for the Armenian survivors by governments, parliaments and public opinion. Only a few intellectuals and associations for human rights saved the honour of their nation by defending a duty to humanity.

The same failure continued during the century with the genocide of the Jews in Europe, and with the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. Researching on these national and international disasters in terms of fighting and preventing genocide reveals the audacity of the few who have understood, spoke out and acted, including the survivors who preserve a major memory. The research I inaugurated on the Armenian genocide fifteen years ago was both anchored in a study of all the intellectual responses to the genocidal process in Ottoman Empire, and in a reflection on writing history of genocides. My first works on the Armenian genocide after 2000 were published in two collective books, the French Encyclopedia de la Grande Guerre and the American Europe since 1914. The Age of War and Reconstruction. In order to write these contributions, I needed to examine the scientific knowledge on the Armenian genocide and the political conditions for doing research on genocide. This critical analysis became my first publication on the subject of the genocide of the Armenians in a scientific journal at the same time.

In concluding my brief statement, I want to insist on the value of our collective life, the lost lives of the victims for whom so much knowledge must yet be revealed, and the living experience of research and education among friends, colleagues, students.

I am proud to have been part of the international conference we organized in 2015 in Paris on a century of research on the Armenian genocide. This scientific meeting was a success. Not only because we were able to prove the effective power of unified scientific communities, not only because the conference had valuable consequences with a lasting impact, for example, the French government subsequently created a scientific mission for studying research and education in France on the subject of genocides and mass crimes, in order to reinforce this field. In addition, most recently, a second and extremely relevant commission, was launched by the President of France Emmanuel Macron this past April: an independent commission of researchers whose aim is to inquire into the French State archives on the genocide of the Tutsi and to reveal the truth on what really happened with former President Mitterrand’s politics and French Army in Rwanda during the time of the genocide.

I am proud of the 2015 Paris international Conference on the Armenian genocide, because of the power of being together, working collectively, imagining a future of our democracies through knowledge, research, education and truth. The esteemed Prize you offer me, Mister President, is dedicated to the those, all over the world, who made the conference possible, – the ones who transformed the centenary commemoration into a true advancement of research and hope. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to communicate theses lessons from the past and the present, here in Yerevan, in your welcoming and prestigious presidential Residence of the Republic of Armenia.


Professor Vincent Duclert

EHESS-Sciences Po

EHESS
CNRS

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