Scholars and practitioners alike have identified interventions on behalf of Armenians as watersheds in the history of humanitarianism. This volume reassesses these claims, critically examining a range of interventions by governments, international and diasporic organisations and individuals that aimed to bring ‘aid to Armenia’. Drawing on perspectives from a range of disciplines, the chapters trace the history of these interventions from the 1890s to the present, paying particular attention to the aftermaths of the Genocide and the upheavals of the post-Soviet period. Geographically, they connect diverse spaces, including the Caucasus, Russia and the Middle East, Europe, North America and South America, and Australia, revealing shifting transnational networks of aid and intervention. These chapters are followed by reflections by leading scholars in the fields of refugee history and Armenian history, Professor Peter Gatrell and Professor Ronald Grigor Suny, respectively.
The challenges of compassion and the Australian humanitarian campaigns for Armenian relief, 1900–30
‘Aid for Armenia’ became a common catch cry in Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This chapter takes a longitudinal perspective of the campaigns conducted across Australia to assist Armenian refugees. In doing so it aims to chart the varied campaigns undertaken to offer aid and assistance to the Armenian population experiencing dispossession, displacement and genocide. It positions these efforts transnationally, identifying how these efforts of aid conducted throughout the English-speaking world intersected and were interconnected, particularly throughout the British Empire. But it also identifies activities at the local level, where public meetings, fundraising drives and lectures were delivered throughout Australia for the Armenian cause. Through an analysis of these endeavours this chapter more broadly seeks to explore how a study of Armenian relief efforts highlights the wider shifts of meaning of compassion and humanitarianism from a range of perspectives and how these changed over time.
Orphans, refugees and Norwegian relief in the Soviet Armenian Republic, 1922–25
Inger Marie Okkenhaug
During and after the Armenian genocide, Protestant missionaries in the Ottoman Empire played vital roles as providers of relief for surviving Armenians. Among the missionaries who joined the initial rescue work were a small cohort of Scandinavian women, the Danish Karen Marie Petersen, Maria Jacobsen, Jenny Jensen, Hansine Marcher and Karen Jeppe, Swedish Alma Johansson and Norwegian Bodil Biørn. In the inter-war years, these women continued their humanitarian efforts among Armenian refugees. Based on sources from the Danish and Norwegian branches of the Women’s Mission Organization this chapter will explore Scandinavian humanitarian ideas and practices in relation to Armenian refugees and orphans in Soviet Armenia. The chapter pays particular attention to the connections between relief workers, refugees and the donors in Scandinavia who supported their work.
Anglo-American relief during the Hamidian massacres, 1894–98
This chapter examines the activities of the British-based Armenian Relief Fund (ARF) and the American National Armenian Relief Committee (NARC) in the aftermath of the Hamidian massacres. Working on the margins of inter-state diplomacy, the two institutions played an important fundraising role, through which they attempted to prove transparency and accountability to the donors. Although an Anglo-American cooperation was not formalised, in the Ottoman Empire the joint efforts of the ARF and the NARC, as well as the complex networks that they joined and fostered, concurred in conceptualising and implementing relief. Moreover, being on the spot allowed the two organisations to realise that relief alone was not adequate to cope with the Armenian suffering and that interventions needed to be adapted to the local context, where Armenian actors would have to be involved in the implementation of employment schemes and resettlement plans. The chapter suggests that the responses to the Hamidian massacres rather than the First World War are a watershed in the history of humanitarianism by means of open and multilateral negotiations between states and non-state actors.
Russian imperial responses to Armenian refugees of war and genocide, 1914–15
As many as 120,000 to 150,000 Armenians – displaced as a result of the First World War on the Caucasus front and the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government against its own Armenian subjects – had crossed the border into Russian imperial territories in the Caucasus in summer and autumn 1915. To confront this emergency situation, imperial Russian authorities as well as non-governmental organisations engaged in the provision of relief to displaced Armenians. By exploring imperial Russia’s response to the refugee crisis on the Caucasus front of the First World War, this chapter elucidates the complexity of humanitarianism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Whereas existing research on humanitarian responses to the Armenian Genocide has focused on the work of Western European actors among Ottoman-Armenian refugees in the Middle East, this chapter shifts the geographical focus to include the Ottoman–Russian borderlands. Drawing upon hitherto unused primary sources from Armenian, Georgian and Russian archives, it focuses particularly on the emergence of refugee relief structures and practices on the Caucasus front during the first year of the war.
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.
International peacebuilding consortiums in Nagorny Karabakh, 2003–16
Following the 1991–94 war in and around Nagorny Karabakh, international efforts towards building Armenian–Azerbaijani peace included interventions in the de facto jurisdiction that emerged in the territory. This chapter reflects critically on the wider impacts of interventions, negotiating a fine line between confidence- and capacity-building in the context of an unrecognised state beyond the purview of ‘normal’/normatively configured international intervention. This chapter charts the trajectory of international interventions, focusing on the period 2003–16. The first date marks the onset of the Consortium Initiative (CI), a British-funded collective of NGOs engaged in confidence-building measures; the CI was subsequently replaced by a European-funded initiative in 2010. The chapter draws on the author’s firsthand experience of working in both initiatives, interviews with activists in Nagorny Karabakh conducted over periodic visits to the territory between 2005 and 2015 and local media sources to reflect on the character, impacts and problems associated with the interventions undertaken in Nagorny Karabakh under both initiatives.
The Smith College Relief Unit, Near East Relief and visions of Armenian reconstruction, 1919–21
In 1919, Smith College – a liberal women’s college in Massachusetts – seconded five of its graduates to Near East Relief’s humanitarian operations in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Once they arrived, the five joined different relief parties and were spread widely throughout Near East Relief’s theatre of operations for the next eighteen months – from the Caucasus to Aleppo, and doing everything from clerical work, to running orphanages and rescue homes, and managing a medical lab. The Smith girls’ correspondence and photograph albums thus give us a rich, bottom-up view of many different fields and facets of NER’s relief operations. This chapter uses the previously unexplored archive of the ‘Smith Unit’ to provide the beginnings of a social history of NER relief workers and relief practices. It focuses on the varying humanitarian visions of NER policy-makers and their different types of relief worker, and the ensuing contestations, collaborations and innovations in practice on the ground. The discussion is framed within debates over the history of relief in Ottoman and post-Ottoman lands, the gendered politics of relief, and the transition from the ‘civilising mission’ to ‘modern’ humanitarianism after the First World War.