02 May 2006
Arising seemingly out of nowhere, Armenian terrorist groups in the last two decades have carried out over 200 attacks in some two dozen countries around the world. Although this wave of terror at first appears to have sprung up without warning, a closer look at Armenian history, especially since World War I, shows that it is only the most recent in a series of outbreaks of ethnic violence. In this study, the author examines the social and political background of Armenian terrorism and its similarities to and differences from other terrorist movements, and he carefully dissects the organizational methods of these groups. An important feature of the work is an extensive and detailed chronology of Armenian terrorism from 1915 to the present. Each entry provides essential information concerning the date and time of the attack, location, victims, weapons used, terrorist groups and individual commandos responsible for the attack, and a list of sources for further reference. A resource for specialists studying terrorism and ethnic violence, "Armenian Terrorism" should also be useful to those interested in the tragic and difficult history of Armenia and Turkey. . .
Book Review: Hyland, Francis P. Armenian Terrorism: The Past, the Present, the Prospects.
Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991.
This analysis of Armenian terrorism against Turkey covers much familiar ground, yet introduces very little that is new. This is not surprising since the subject of Hyland's study petered out in the mid-1980s, when the present reviewer published his "Pursuing the Just Cause of Their People: " A Study of Contemporary Terrorism (1986). Accordingly, it might have been more useful for Hyland to have analyzed the staggering events which have occurred in Soviet Armenia since 1988. In this latter situation, for better or worse, a genuine national movement has arisen, rather than a series of cowardly murders and inept bombings.
An unusual feature of the present study is that more than 60 percent of it is devoted to two lengthy appendixes. The first lists more than 260 "At-tacks" associated with Armenian terrorism, detailing each one's date, target country, victims, location, perpetrating group, commandos involved, weapons used, sources that reported it, and comments. This arrangement allows for useful comparisons and analyses of a large amount of data.
The second, much shorter appendix tabulates such "Quantitative Aspects" as targets by countries, geographic distribution of incidents, and type of facility attacked. Together, these two appendixes constitute the most useful part of Hyland's book.
Also of interest is the author's largely successful attempt to demonstrate that the New Armenian Resistance was a third, separate Armenian terrorist group, not a mere appendage of one of the two main ones — the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) and the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG) — as most previous commentators have concluded.
Although Hyland has attempted to be objective — not a mean accomplishment when dealing with this subject — the present reviewer has a number of problems with his short text. The opening three chapters on the "Cultural/Historical Context," "World War I: Ottoman Turkey," and the "1915 Massacres" are especially light, ignoring some of the basic sources cited by the Armenians, such as the work of Richard Hovannisian, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Lord James Bryce, Vahakn N. Dadrian, and Khachig Tololyan. As for the Turkish sources on this time period, it is as if they were virtually non-existent.
In telling his reader that "as bad as living conditions had been for Armenians [under the Turks], the situation began to worsen beginning in the seventeenth century," (pp. 3-4) Hyland seems to be unaware of the more subtle nuances of their relationship. Indeed, into the nineteenth century, the Turks considered the Armenians to be the miller-i sadika, or the "loyal nation."
In damning the Turks for the 1915 massacres, Hyland quotes from the notorious Andonian forgeries to "prove" that Talaat Pasha's intentions were genocidal without even citing the source, (p. 16) Furthermore, he seems unaware of the recent scholarly analysis of these "documents" by Vahakn N. Dadrian in the International Journal of Middle East Studies (August 1986 and November 1987), which attempted to defend their authenticity, and the one that called them into question: Sinasi Orel and Sureyya Yuca, The Talat Pasha Telegrams: Historical Fact or Armenian Fiction? (1986).
In his analysis of the demise of ASALA, Hyland stresses the importance of Monte Melkonian's dissident ASALA-RM grouping without informing his reader that when Melkonian was captured by the French authorities in December 1985, his "organization" was revealed to be a mere phantom.
In addition, Hyland gives precious little attention to the vicious bloodletting in Lebanon during the mid-1980s between ASALA and the Dashnaks who sponsored JCAG. This intra-Armenian violence was certainly a major reason for the ending of the terrorism against the Turks, as it illustrated how bankrupt its perpetrators' dedication was. Finally, of course, the rejection of terrorism by an increasingly embarrassed Armenian community further helps to explain its demise.
In discussing the implicit support some Armenian clerics gave to the terrorism, Hyland erroneously declares that "Bishop Tabakian, at the same time , was the highest ranking Armenian Church official in the Western U.S." (p. 63). Actually, however, Tabakian was only the top official of the Antelias (Cilician) See. A rival Etchmiadzin See also exists. Its Bishop in the Western US claims equal authority.
In the "Miscellaneous" section of his short bibliography, as well as in some places in his chapter notes, Hyland appears to be citing material from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). If he is, he has not stated so, but if he is not, what is he citing?
Throughout his book, Hyland inconsistently spells the popular name for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — die preeminent Armenian political organization during the past 100 years — in three different ways: "Dashnak," "Tashnak," and "Dashnag." Indeed he lists the first two versions separately in his index complete with page references, as if they were two separate entries. His spelling of "Abu Nidal" is also inconsistent, while the subtitle "The Third Class" on page 40 should, of course, read "The Third Phase."
Finally, given Armenia's declared need for Turkish cooperation, as it moves toward independence amidst the wreckage of the former Soviet Union, Hyland's conclusion — based in part on Monte Melkonian's empty boasting mentioned above — mat "there is little doubt that trained, experienced, dedicated members of the Armenian terrorist movement have every intention of at least trying to revive their struggle" (p. 89) would seem to be misplaced. Although it is impossible to predict the long-term future, Armenian terrorism against Turkey is passe in the current era.
Michael M. Gunter
Tennessee Technological University 1992