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Books out of Print

PART II. Examination of Historical events mentioned in ARARAT

Art and Armenian Propaganda: Ararat as a Case Study

 !ß鰀="justify">The author of this article that you are about to read is not an art critic. Actually, the writer and director of the scenario that we are about to examine, Atom Egoyan, is not a historian, however, Egoyan’s film is based on the historical facts.

The most striking part of the film and the scenario is the scene where they claim that the historical facts of the film are not based on neither Armenian nor Turkish sources but, on an American missionary’s journal that is supposed to be unbiased. In the above-mentioned scene a character Rouben gives a book to Martin who will act the part of an American missionary and says:

“This book is the key to your character. This is the actual journal of Clarence Ussher published in Boston in 1917. Ussher a missionary, an American doctor witnessed the whole thing.”[1]

Rouben continues;

“Every scene in my script is based on this document. It is a true story about a man who saw an entire community wiped out. So you can’t-you can’t play him like he’s just a guy doing a job....”[2]

By saying so, he expresses that this character is very important and should be well acted.

As mentioned previously, this scene will be the most important scene as far as the audience is concerned. Because, the witness is neither an Armenian nor a Turk. According to Egoyan, or according to the impression that is trying to be created, he only a neutral witness. Anyhow, what makes the film so important is the fact that it is based on an American’s journal.

Any analysis on the film would be incomplete, due to Egoyan’s claim that he based the scenario on the missionaries journals, without stating the fact that why they were in Turkey-Van, why they were sent there, what kind of activities they were performing and furthermore their attitudes towards both the Armenians and the Turks.

Another very important point that should be analyzed in order to understand the Armenian question is the Armenian revolt that occurred in Van between 1914-1916 and the war that followed the revolt immediately after.

Furthermore, the analyses of the journals of the people that were actually on duty in the region at the time and their comparison should be completed.

Our research started with reading the scenario. The second step was to read the actual book that was written by Dr. Clarence D. Ussher and Ms. Grace Il. Knapp, “An American Physician in Turkey” which was published in Boston in 1917 the very book that Egoyan founds it film’s scenario.

This stage was followed by reading the journals of Ms. Knapp, Y. A. Rushdouni whom were Dr. Usshers colleagues at the time. Besides the mentioned journals, reports written on the incidents by Swiss missionaries Safrastian and Gazarian, furthermore, the diary of Venezuelan Mr. Rafael de Nögalis, whom on the advice of the Germans, joined the Turkish army as a volunteer and served until the end of the World War I, and during the Van Revolt, leaded the Turkish army together with the Deputy Major of Van Cevdet Bey. As far as one can understand from his journal he most probably was a spy and a Christian fanatic, and lastly the journals written by the Turks and foreigners besides the official letters of the period.

Before starting to analyze Dr. Ussher and his book “An American Physician in Turkey” that Egoyan founded his scenario on, it would be helpful to understand what the American missionaries were doing in Turkey.

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- Art and Armenian Propaganda: Ararat as a Case Study
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ERAREN - Institute for Armenian Research

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