I write these words burdened and hunched beneath the carriage of accumulating and clotted thoughts and emotions of the past two decades. I convince myself that I write standing before Hagop’s unmarked grave— his absent tombstone. Why did this academic, husband, and father become a victim of a Soviet diplomatic board game where he was neither a player nor a pawn of the involved parties? He simply happened to be ‘there,’ a deadly place and time. His tormentors and murderers – void of the slightest trace of humanness and compassion failed to deliver his lifeless body to his family.
Hagop was born on the 13th of May, 1936 in Aleppo, Syria. He lost his parents at a dreadfully young age and was thence cared for by his loving grandmother, Eliza Kahkedjian — one who possessed exceptional wisdom and strength. Despite her ripe age, she submitted her strengths to hard labor to raise Hagop, his younger sister, and brother. A few years later Hagop was placed in a youth shelter maintained by the Armenian Relief Society. He became a student at the then newly found school, Karen Yeppe, where he proved to be a bright and eager learner. After completing his secondary education he enrolled in the local French Lycee where he received his Baccalaureate Part II in the field of Philosophy.
Forward a few years. In 1960, Hagop settled in the United States, in San Francisco, California. There he attended the state university in San Francisco where he earned a BS (1964) followed by an MA (1969) in International World Trade. The focus of his thesis was the European Common Market.
In 1972 Hagop relocated to New York City to resume his education. In 1975 he received his MA in Middle East History from New York University. Five years later, in 1980, he earned his Ph. D. from Columbia University in Ottoman History. He then lectured at Columbia University for a brief period. Soon he was invited to teach at Haigazian College in Beirut, Lebanon, which he eagerly accepted.
On January 31st, 1986, Hagop was kidnapped in Beirut. He was not seen again.
In an April 1986 letter which he sent from his prison cell, his final words were "protect well my sweet Nanore." I was and am true to those words.
It was also his wish to publish his dissertation with additional chapters, and to make the comparison between the Armenian Amira class and their contemporary Greek and Jewish wealthy classes. His work was not completed. His disappearance would not allow him to draft the comparison between the Armenian Amira and Jewish wealthy classes in the Ottoman Empire.
After long delays his work is now published.
On Hagop’s behalf, I would like to thank the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Foundation whose generous funds made this publication possible. I would also like to thank the editor, Iris Papazian. My deepest gratitude goes to the President of the American University of Armenia, Dr. Haroutyun Armenian, an old friend of Hagop’s, who encouraged, supported, and managed this publication and its translation into Turkish and Armenian. I would also like to thank Dr. Khatchik Derghougassian, once a student of Hagop’s, for overlooking this publication.
His name rests here— in this carefully preserved bundle of words where the man and his world fade from memory and what remains is public property.
Հայր Ղեւոնդ Ալիշան-200