Updated: Jul 13, 2021
(Penn State – The Daily Collegian) – The Foster Auditorium was filled with dozens of curious people as Ronald Grigor Suny, a professor at the University of Michigan, spoke about the Armenian Genocide that took place 100 years ago.
The event was a collaborative effort between the Department of History, Rock Ethics Institute and Paterno Fellowship as well as the Armenian Student Association to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the genocide.
"This event was so important because all of the other events that we have done were by ourselves, but with this one we got help from the Department of History,” Antranik Chekemian, president of the Armenian Student Association, said.
Suny talked at length about the genocide, which took place between 1915 and 1917 and is considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century. Between one and one and a half million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Young Turks, Suny said. He also discussed his book, “They can Live in the Desert, but Nowhere Else.”
As a historian, the main goal is to try to improve on information that people once believed was true, Suny said.
“Historians try to understand not only what happened but why it happened,” Suny said.
Suny took the time to explain exactly what genocide is. He said it conjures images of the most horrendous actions a state can take against people, but it is very different than mass murder.
“Genocide is not the murder of people,” Suny said. “It is the murder of a people.”
The event was put in place not only to commemorate the 100th anniversary, but to inform students who may not know very much about the genocide.
Because the Armenian Genocide may not be a historical event that is in the minds of many students, some students said they came in order to find out more.
“I knew nothing about [the Armenian Genocide], so it was really interesting to get the opportunity to learn more about it,” Jaime Rosenberg (junior-journalism) said.
The professor said exactly why he wanted to come here to talk more about this genocide.
“I wanted to try to explain why a government would turn against its own people, so that it would not happen again,” Suny said.
This event really hit home for a lot of Armenian students who are on campus because many said they have relatives in their family who survived these atrocities.
“Nearly all of the members of our organization are third or fourth generation survivors of the Armenian genocide. Their great-grandparents migrated to other areas of the world when the genocide was taking place in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire,” Chekemian said. “As the Armenian Student Association at Penn State, we are hoping to protect the Armenian community on campus, promote and share our culture, language and history with everyone.”