Vahé Tachjian
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Humanitarian diaspora?
The AGBU in Soviet Armenia, 1920–30s
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This chapter focuses on the role of the Armenian diaspora organisation, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in relief and development projects in the Soviet Republic of Armenia. The AGBU was founded in Cairo in 1906: its relationship with the Soviet Armenian Republic created in December 1920 constitutes one of the most turbulent and fascinating chapters in its history. The first phase of its relations with the Soviet regime ran for about fifteen years, from 1922 to 1937, until the announcement by the Soviet regime – at the peak of the Stalinist purges – of the prohibition of the AGBU’s activities in Soviet Armenia. Throughout this decade and a half, the AGBU was optimistic, elaborating vast construction projects in the hope that they would eventually make it possible to settle tens of thousands of refugees and orphans in Armenia. Examining this process highlights the complexities and particularities of the role of diasporic actors in humanitarian aid. Furthermore, shedding light to the cooperative endeavours between the Soviet Union and a diasporic organisation provides fresh insight into the place of the Soviet Union in wider histories of humanitarianism and its difficulties and contradictions.

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Aid to Armenia

Humanitarianism and intervention from the 1890s to the present


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