By Hambersom Aghbashian
Ugur Ümit Üngör was born in 1980, in Erzincan, Turkey and raised in Enschede , in the Netherlands. Currently, he is Assistant Professor at the Department of History at Utrecht University and at the *NIOD, which is an Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam.. He specializes in genocide, mass violence and ethnic conflict. Dr. Üngör gained his Ph.D. in 2009 (cum laude)** at the University of Amsterdam. In 2008- 2009, he was Lecturer in International History at the Department of History of the University of Sheffield, and in 2009-10, he was Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for War Studies of University College Dublin. His main area of interest is the historical sociology of mass violence and nationalism and his most recent publications include “Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property” (New York/London; Continuum 2011) and the award-winning “The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950” (Oxford; Oxford University Press 2011).(1)(2)
“Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property” by Ugur Üngör and Mehmet Polatel is the first major study of the mass sequestration of Armenian property by the Young Turk regime during the 1915 Armenian genocide. It details the emergence of Turkish economic nationalism, offers insight into the economic ramifications of the genocidal process, and describes how the plunder was organized on the ground. The interrelated nature of property confiscation initiated by the Young Turk regime and its cooperating local elites offers new insights into the functions and beneficiaries of state-sanctioned robbery. By drawing on secret files and unexamined records, the authors demonstrate that while Armenians were suffering systematic plunder and destruction, a range of properties were assigned to ordinary Turks for the purpose of their progress.(3)
Ugur Üngör’s book “The making of modern Turkey. Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950” is a study which highlights how two successive Turkish-nationalist regimes, from 1913 to 1950, subjected Eastern Turkey to various forms of nationalist population policies aimed at ethnically homogenizing the region and including it in the Turkish nation state. Moreover, it examines how the regime used technologies of social engineering such as physical destruction, deportation, spatial planning, forced assimilation, and memory politics, in order to increase ethnic and cultural homogeneity within the nation state. The province of Diyarbakir, the heartland of Armenian and Kurdish life, became an epicenter of Young Turk population policies and the theater of unprecedented levels of mass violence. These violent processes of state formation often destroyed historical regions and emptied multicultural cities, clearing the way for modern nation states(4). The book was the winner of the Erasmus Research Prize (Praemium Erasmianum – 2010) and of the Keetje Hodshon Prize, awarded by the Royal Netherlands Society of Sciences and Humanities. Besides, he was awarded by the 2012 Heineken Young Scientist Award in History by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. (5)
In his article entitled “Prolific Young Scholar on Armenian Genocide in Holland”, Aram Arkun wrote in “The Armenian Mirror-Spectator”, Feb. 7, 2012, Ugur Ümit Üngör is one of a new generation of scholars emerging from Turkey who deal forthrightly with the Armenian Genocide. Üngör was led to his interest in the Armenian Genocide by reading about the Holocaust, and in particular, “Rethinking the Holocaust”, a book by Yehuda Bauer, and he made comparisons with other genocides, including the Armenian one. Despite his own family origins in the same region as this genocide, Üngör said, “I had never heard about such an event and it sparked my curiosity. When I did my research, I was amazed by the difference between the denial of official histories in Turkey versus what the ordinary population in Eastern Turkey knew about the Genocide. I traveled around Eastern Turkey and did many interviews with old people, who openly spoke about the Armenians as having been massacred by the government.”(6)
“Turkey Has Acknowledged the Armenian Genocide” is Ugur Üngör article in The Armenian Weekly ( April 27, 2012), where he wrote “Turkey denies the Armenian Genocide” goes a jingle. Yes, the Turkish state’s official policy towards the Armenian Genocide was and is indeed characterized by the “three M’s”: misrepresentation, mystification, and manipulation. But when one gauges what place the genocide occupies in the social memory of Turkish society, even after nearly a century, a different picture emerges. Even though most direct eyewitnesses to the crime have passed away, oral history interviews yield important insights. Elderly Turks and Kurds in eastern Turkey often hold vivid memories from family members or fellow villagers who witnessed or participated in the genocide. There is a clash between official state memory and popular social memory: The Turkish government is denying a genocide that its own population remembers.(7)
*NIOD: Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam , Neterlands, is an organization which maintains archives and carries out historical studies into the Second World War. The institute was founded as a merge of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (Nederlands instituut voor oorlogs documentatie, NIOD) and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS).
**Cum laude is an honor added to a diploma or degree for work that is above average. (with honor).