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The Ottoman Armenian Merchant from Arapkir

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 07 March 2016 - 10:54 AM

US Official News
March 5, 2016 Saturday

The Ottoman Armenian Merchant from Arapkir

Washington: Library of Congress has issued the following news release:

Poghos Garabedian started his personal memoirs with a flourish. Within
the next 41 pages, this merchant in the Ottoman Empire –
originally from Arapkir in the region of Malatya, Turkey – would
detail his extensive mercantile travels to Constantinople, the Crimea,
Arapkir and Eastern Europe. He would also, in good patriarchal
fashion, advise his children on the way to be good merchants,
Christians and Armenians. Garabedian also details his days as the
purveyor of the pantry in the Khedive's court in Cairo. Last, he
describes the donations he has made to Armenian institutions in
Constantinople, Arapkir and many of the other places he has journeyed.

The Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division
recently acquired this manuscript, which was created in Cairo around
1877 and was written in what the Armenians call hayatar Turkeren
(Turkish in Armenian letters) – now known as Armeno-Turkish.
Curiously, Garabedian appends a family genealogy on pages 41-45,
written in Armenian with Arabic numerals. Why this dichotomy? Could it
have been that Garabedian intended the memoirs for a broad audience of
both Armenians and others, while he realized the genealogy would be of
interest only to Armenians?

Armeno-Turkish is a phenomenon in the Ottoman Empire that started in
the early 18th century and lasted well into the mid-20th century.
These works – hand-written manuscripts, published books,
newspapers, journals, serials and pamphlets – were literally
written in the Turkish language but with the use of the Armenian
rather than the prevalent Arabic script. The simplistic explanation
has always been that Armenians who knew Turkish used Armeno-Turkish
but not when it was written in the Arabic script. Recently,
scholarship has debunked this explanation and has revealed its use as
a separate and creative phenomenon. Works written and published in
Armeno-Turkish were known and used not only to Armenians but also to
Ottoman intellectuals and functionaries.

Engraving of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte from Hovsep Vartanian's
two-volume history. African and Middle Eastern Division.

Engraving of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte from Hovsep Vartanian's
two-volume history. African and Middle Eastern Division.

The Library's growing collection of Armeno-Turkish works includes a
two-volume history of Napoleon Bonaparte by Hovsep Vartanian, which
gives us a potential answer. During the course of a lecture he
delivered in Yerevan, Armenia, in 2014, Murat Cankara of the Social
Sciences University of Ankara theorized that Vartanian was also the
author of the anonymous Armeno-Turkish `Akabi Hikayesi,' the first
novel published in the Ottoman Empire. (Alas, the Library only has a
1991 edition of this seminal work). What was especially intriguing,
however, was Cankara's translation of a passage from the history of
Napoleon in which Vartanian discussed his reasons for using

`Before we conclude, a reservation comes to mind: there will also be
people who ask `in any event, wouldn't our mother tongue, the Armenian
language be preferable for writing such a history?' Our humble answer
to them [is this]: Turkish or Armenian, whatever the language is, in
order to be able to benefit from reading such a history one should
have studied thoroughly either of these languages. As a matter of
fact, the number of those who are familiar with classical Armenian is
quite limited and vernacular Armenian's rules have not been
established as yet, so writing a book in this language necessitates
using words from Classical Armenian in every line. And in order to
understand a book written in the vernacular, one needs to take on the
burden of learning classical Armenian. It seems also that some Ottoman
Armenians from that same period advocated the use of the Armenian
script over the Arabic for much the same reasons.'

The Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud II and his son Sultan Abdülaziz.
Prints and Photographs Division.

The Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud II and his son Sultan Abdülaziz.
Prints and Photographs Division.

Whatever the reasons for its use, works in Armeno-Turkish span several
disciplines, although the preponderance of them are either translated
or original religious works and of those, most are of the New
Testament. The Library of Congress's expanding collection includes
inter alia, novels, histories, philosophical and geographic works,
almanacs, veterinary studies, dictionaries and newspapers. Researchers
may find a comprehensive list in our online catalog by entering the
key word `armeno-turkish.'

This discreet collection of materials, which is housed in the Near
East Section complements other collections in the Library of Congress
that testify to the important role of the Armenians in the Ottoman
Empire. One such collection in the custody of the Prints and
Photographs Division has also been fully digitized and made available
to the public. The album presented to the United States by Sultan
Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918) consists of photographs of the Ottoman
Empire taken by his court photographers, who were three Armenian
brothers known collectively as Abdullah frère.


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