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Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey

Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey
Avedis Hadjian

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It has long been assumed that no Armenian presence remained in eastern Turkey after the 1915 massacres. As a result of what has come to be called the Armenian Genocide, those who survived in Anatolia were assimilated as Muslims, with most losing all traces of their Christian identity.

In fact, some did survive and together with their children managed during the last century to conceal their origins. Many of these survivors were orphans, adopted by Turks, only discovering their `true' identity late into their adult lives. Outwardly, they are Turks or Kurds and while some are practising Muslims, others continue to uphold Christian and Armenian traditions behind closed doors.

In recent years, a growing number of `secret Armenians' have begun to emerge from the shadows. Spurred by the bold voices of journalists like Hrant Dink, the Armenian newspaper editor murdered in Istanbul in 2007, the pull towards freedom of speech and soul-searching are taking hold across the region. Avedis Hadjian has travelled to the towns and villages once densely populated by Armenians, recording stories of survival and discovery from those who remain in a region that is deemed unsafe for the people who once lived there.

This book takes the reader to the heart of these hidden communities for the first time, unearthing their unique heritage and identity. Revealing the lives of a peoples that have been trapped in a history of denial for more than a century, Secret Nation is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide in the very places where the events occurred.

Author Info

Avedis Hadjian is a freelance journalist. He has appeared on CNN and his writing has appeared in Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News and Le Monde Diplomatique, amongst many other major international news outlets, and he has written books and articles on the Caucasus in both English and Spanish. His work as a correspondent has taken him to Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, China, the Caucasus, Turkey and Latin America.


“A fascinating and valuable piece of work. Based on a very large number of encounters and interviews with people in Turkey, it gradually builds a kind of group portrait of the Armenian community in Turkey. This community has indeed been a “hidden nation” for almost a century in the sense that almost all surviving Armenians in Turkey have converted to Islam and been submerged into the larger Turkish or Kurdish Muslim communities. Yet, to a surprising extent, a consciousness of being Armenian has survived – even among people who have no Armenian and have now been Muslims for the best part of a century.  The records of the fieldwork in the form of descriptions of encounters and conversations are fascinating … the account is well written, very lively and fluid.”

 – Erik J. Zürcher, Professor of Turkish Studies, University of Leiden and author of Turkey: A Modern History (I.B.Tauris, 2003).


“Avedis Hadjian's work on the descendants of Armenians still living in the eastern provinces of Turkey or established in Istanbul crosses history and memory. The author invites us to a dive into a multiple world where memory is much more alive than one could have imagined. Those Turkish citizens who often want to forget their families’ pasts escape the stigma attached to their infamous origins and hide themselves to form a "secret nation". In other words, they do not give themselves up easily. This requires establishing a climate of trust. The author, a remarkable polyglot, who even managed to assimilate the Hamshin dialect, was thus gradually able to establish a strong link with his interlocutors. Those who want to understand what mass violence has engendered in Turkish society must read this book –  which is indisputably the most accomplished investigation – an image of a world tortured from within by its memory.”

 – Raymond H. Kevorkian, Honorary Director of Research, University Paris 8 and author of The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (I.B.Tauris, 2013).


"In a courageous, daring journey of discovery and recovery, the journalist Avedis Hadjian moved for years through eastern Turkey to seek out the 'remnants of the sword,' those whose ancestors had survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915, who in most cases converted to Islam, and were wary but willing to speak of their family's experience.  Eastern Anatolia is the contested geography where historic Armenia meets a present and future Kurdistan while both remain firmly under the gaze of the Turks. Hadjian's vivid and varied portraits reveal layers of tragic loss and survival that testify to the perseverance and resilience of ordinary, extraordinary people."

 – Ronald Grigor Suny, William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at The University of Michigan and author of "They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton, 2015).


“Time opened a window and light transpersed one of the darkest secrets of the Middle East: that of the surviving Armenians left behind after the mass deportations and massacres, continuing to live over their historic land, living in a state of denial. The window of time has closed since, with Turkish politics hardening again, devouring more of its children. Yet, it left behind voices of survivors in the form of oral histories collected in various forms. Among them Avedis Hadjian’s remarkable book Secret Nation is the most complete narrative on the life and fate of Islamized Armenians.”

 – Vicken Cheterian, author of Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide (Hurst, 2015).


“The Armenian Genocide of 1915-16 has one great untold story. This is that there may be as many as two million Islamicized Armenians living in Turkey, whose grandparents and great-grandparents survived the death marches and massacres and were incorporated into Kurdish and Turkish families, often by force. To uncover the secrets and tell this story requires great perseverance, erudition and great sensitivity. This is what Avedis Hadjian has done in this remarkable, vivid and quite eccentric book. His research is impressive and the stories he tells extraordinary and moving.”

 – Thomas de Waal, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Europe


“Deeply reported, and written with empathy and erudition, “Secret Nation” will prove to be an enduring work of journalism on the subject of ethnic slaughter and its long aftermath. Based on relentless travel across the Turkish countryside, the book examines a people who, for more than a century, have carried with them a liminal, quasi-clandestine heritage shaped by the legacy of the Armenian Genocide, and its official state denial. Avedis Hadjian moves through Anatolia’s wounded landscape like a storyteller from the novels of W. G. Sebald, weighted by history, and compelled to excavate the connective tissue between present and past, trauma and acceptance.”

– Raffi Khatchadourian, Staff Writer at The New Yorker

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781788311991
Publication Date: 29 Apr 2018
Number of Pages: 624
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 4 colour illustrations in a 4-page plates section

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