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The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province

The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province

Nazaretian family, 1880s. Standing: Nigoghos Agha, Haroutioun Agha; sitting: Nazaretian Nazar Agha (Kara Nazar), Garabed Agha, and mother Zmrout Khatun. Photo: Mihran Minassian Private Collection.

The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA and The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law present "The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province" by Dr. Ümit Kurt. This lecture is co-sponsored by the UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), and the Ararat-Eskijian Museum. Following the lecture Mr. Robert Kurkjian, a descendent of Genocide survivors from Aintab, will provide additional commentary about his family's experience with property loss and confiscation during the Armenian Genocide.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM (Pacific Time)

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One cornerstone of the wartime campaign against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was the confiscation of their properties and wealth, which were subsequently transferred to Muslim elites and used in reshaping the domestic economy as well as covering wartime expenses. These were among the radical practices of the CUP (Committee of Union and Progress) regime aimed at nationalizing the economy. First, many businesses and properties were transferred to state institutions. Second, a lesser but substantial number of firms were transferred to “reliable” Muslim individuals and social institutions. More significant than the transfers themselves was the fact that these extraordinary measures were based on a set of laws, regulations, rules, and decrees that created a legal basis for a more systematic campaign against the movable and immovable properties of Armenians. In this capital transfer, we see that genocide also created the circumstances to enable “the complete fulfillment of the established policy of ethnic domination through expropriation.” Economic dispossession was far from a process carried out “from above” by means of the simple execution of CUP orders. If the process of the economic exclusion of Armenians is to be described fully, a regional historical analysis is necessary. This talk will explore how the process of economic destruction directed at the Armenians of Aintab—present-day Gaziantep, thirty-five miles west of the Euphrates and twenty-eight miles north of today’s Turkish-Syrian border—was implemented. Shifting focus from state to society, thereby prioritizing the local roots of a mass violence in the making, this work will highlight the crucial role played by local elites and provincial notables, actors who prospered in the new social stratum through the acquisition of Armenian property and wealth.  


Ümit Kurt is a historian of the late Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on the transformations of the imperial structures and their role in constituting the republican regime. Moreover, his research and teaching are grounded on theories of state and class, social identity and ethnicity. He received his MA from Sabancı University in 2008 and PhD from Clark University in 2016. Since then, he has held a number of postdoctoral positions in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and the Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. Currently, he is a Research Fellow at Polonsky Academy in the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and teaches in the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Antep 1915: Genocide and Perpetrators (2018), co-author of The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide (2015) and editor of Armenians and Kurds in Late Ottoman Empire (2020). His recent book, The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province, was published in April 2021 by Harvard University Press. Ümit Kurt is the winner of the 2021 Discovery Early Career Research Award given by Australian Research Council. He is also Vice Executive Secretary of International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS). His research has been supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.


Robert Kurkjian has Aintab roots from his four Grandparents (the Kurkjian, Babikian, Barsumian, and Danielian families, all from Aintab). He is a retired engineering director from the Hughes Research Laboratories (HRL) in Malibu, California, supporting research projects for General Motors and Boeing. After receiving his BSEE degree from MIT in 1962 and MSEE degree from USC in 1964, Mr. Kurkjian joined Hughes Aircraft Company, specializing in Automated Test Systems and Software. After retirement, he is continuing the family interest in quality education as a member of the Haigazian University Board of Trustees and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Harrison Trust supporting Los Angeles High School students. In 2000 he joined Louis and Grace Kurkjian (his brother and sister-in-law) in visiting Aintab and environs to see where their Grandparents' families resided before 1915.

Sponsor(s): The Promise Armenian Institute, Center for Near Eastern Studies, The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law, UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Ararat-Eskijian Museum