Title of the presentation: Katya, 97 years and three worlds in one life, the testimony of an Armenian woman
Katya was born in Yerevan in 1920, from a Family of traders and craftsmen originality from Igdir, who fled the Genocide in 1918. A small town but with a consistent Armenian society, Igdir was dominated by the Russian empire at the time the massacres began in 1915. Yet, the Bolchevik revolution and the withdrawing of Russian troops forced into exile the Armenian population of the prosperous city along with other hundreds of thousands of refugees from Western Armenia. Only 60 km from Yerevan, Katya’s family brought with them their mixed culture – they were Armenian speakers, but also Russian and Turkish speakers – and valuables they could carry with them. Yerevan was merely a town by the time of the genocide. An independent republic proclaimed on May 28 1918 and run by the Dachnak revolutionary party was soon to vanish (1920) and the territory to be ruled by the Soviet government. The tremendous amount of refugees from the genocide were scattered all around this small portion of Armenian territory and Katya first years of life along with her family were deemed by hunger and extreme poverty. The New Economic Policy implemented by Lenine enables the family and many other local Armenians and refugees to breath a bit and opening small trade shops and businesses but Stalin seizing power and gradually establishing a dictatorship in all the Soviet territories put an end to this. When she was turning 16, Katya went through Talin terror having members of her family arrested. The war and then the destalinization process was another major event in Katya’s life. And by the end of the 1980’s and the beginning of the 1990’s, Katya was also the witness of the beginning of the war for Karabagh and the collapse of the USSR.
Yet she keeps saying she does have an interesting life…Parts of her interview will be screened and will give the opportunity to discover through the eyes of a direct witness a century of turmoil impacted by the Armenian genocide, the Soviet revolution, the Stalin terror and then the ending of the USSR. The extracts will also let us know more specifically what changes implemented by the USSR did impact Katya’s life – some of them she views as real progresses – in the sphere of education and gender equality for instance.
A non-academic approach based on direct testimony, this contribution to the Conference aimed to bring to the audience a viewpoint on what a woman born by the time of the disaster of Armenian genocide and the emerging Soviet power has experienced in her daily life. Her words, opinions and memories confirmed what Maurice Halbwachs demonstrated – that the collective memory of groups cannot be reduced to its members’memory, that individual memories thus shaped by their communities are however not to be confused with collective memory and challenge History in many different aspects.