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The Controversial Capital “H”

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This post is really an extension to my last post but life sort of got in the way in the last week so I haven’t had the time to continue that conversation.

I don’t know an awful lot about Armenia but the couple things that I did know were of great importance to our host last weekend and I think helped establish the good rapport we had with him during the evening.

I read a book a few years ago by Robert Fisk ‘The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East’. In it he devoted a lengthy section to the Armenian Holocaust of 1915. Widely believed to be the first modern genocide, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Empire around the time of World War I. It was in the headlines quite recently with the diplomatic row between Turkey and France over the new French law which makes it a criminal offense to deny genocide. Turkey was furious with the French as they have always denied that any genocide took place in Armenia and refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for the events that took place there.

The other thing that I didn’t know until reading Robert Fisk’s book was that referring to the Armenian Holocaust is in itself controversial. According to the conventions by which the print media operate, the only act of genocide in history that could appear in print with a capitalised ‘H’ was the genocide of the Jews during World War II. So when Robert Fisk submitted his article on ‘the Armenian Holocaust’, it was edited to appear in print as with a lower case ‘h’.

Fisk then took this up with the editors of The Independent, for whom he worked, and argued that the killing of 1.5 million people had a legitimate right to a capitalized ‘H’. Eventually they agreed and the syntactic conventions used by editors of the Independent were extended to include the use of a capitalized Holocaust for the events in Armenia in 1915.

Battle grounds exist in the most unexpected corners, don’t they?






Written by Spiller

January 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Aghtamar Lake Van Monastery in Exile

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I knew I was going to love this place way before I’d even stepped through the door.

It’s not quite a restaurant and is rarely open, it’s quite difficult to find and even more difficult to make a booking. You are heavily vetted by the owner on the telephone before you are allowed to reserve a table, required to arrive at exactly the specified time, to an unmarked, unlit building and who tells you, when you ask for directions, that if you’re not clever enough to find his place then perhaps you’re not the sort of guests he’d want after all.

Because guests you are indeed. In the home of a curious and fascinating and, as it turns out,  perfectly hospitable Armenian. There’s no heating, barely any lighting but there is a never-ending banquet of homely and hearty Armenian food delivered to your table, a limited but sufficient supply of wine and the invitation to join in some very interesting Armenian dancing – sort like the Hokey Cokey mixed with some high kicking and free-style breakdancing.

For a highly unusual and very memorable eating experience, Aghtamar Lake Van Monastery in Exile will be hard to beat.

If you can find it.