Difference between revisions of "Gourgen Yanikian"

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'''Gourgen Mkrtich (Megerdich) Yanikian''' ({{lang-hy|&#1331;&#1400;&#1410;&#1408;&#1379;&#1381;&#1398; &#1349;&#1377;&#1398;&#1387;&#1391;&#1397;&#1377;&#1398;}}, December 24, 1895, [[Erzerum]], [[Western Armenia]], [[Ottoman Empire]] - March 27, 1984, [[USA]]) was an [[United States|America]]n-[[Armenian people|Armenian]] author, [[engineer]] and an [[Armenian Genocide]] survivor who assassinated two [[Turkey|Turkish]] consular officials (Los Angeles Consul general Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadır Demir) in [[California]] in 1973<ref>[http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE3DD1439F932A35750C0A962948260&sec=&spon= Imprisoned Armenian Dies, New York Times, March 1, 1984]</ref>.
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{{Person
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|Sex=Male
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|Photo filename=Gourgen Yanikian.jpg
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|Photo size=300
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|Photo caption=Yanigian at his desk in Beverly Hills, early 1950s
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|Name in Armenian=Գուրգեն Մկրտիչ Եանիկեան
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|Birthplace name=Erzurum
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|Birthplace coordinates=39.9, 41.26999999999998
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|Birth date=1895/12/24
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|Birth day=24
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|Birth month=December
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|Birth year=1895
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|Lived in=Erzurum, Moscow, Iran, Los Angeles
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|Death date=1984/02/29
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|Death year=1984
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|Education=University of Moscow
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|Citizenship=United States
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|Languages=Armenian, English, Farsi
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|Ethnicities=Armenian
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|Armenian dialects=Western Armenian
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|Ancestral villages=Erzurum
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|Spouses=Suzanna Yanikian
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}}
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'''Kourken Megerdich Yanigian''' ({{lang-hy|Գուրգեն Մկրտիչ Եանիկեան}}, December 24, 1895 – February 29, 1984) was an [[Armenian American]] author, [[engineer]] and an [[Armenian Genocide]] survivor, who [[1973 Baltimore Hotel attack|assassinated]] two [[Turkey|Turkish]] consular officials (Los Angeles Consul General Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadır Demir) in [[California]] in 1973.<ref name="query.nytimes.com">{{citation | url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE3DD1439F932A35750C0A962948260&sec=&spon= | contribution = Imprisoned Armenian Dies | title = [[The New York Times]] | date = March 1, 1984}}.</ref>
  
 
==Biography==
 
==Biography==
Yanikian studied as an engineer at the [[Moscow State University|University of Moscow]]. He oversaw the building of a railroad across Iran during the Second World War, as part of Allied efforts there.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty>[http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FA0F1FFE385C1A7A93C1A9178CD85F478785F9 Armenian Guilty of Killing Turks]. ''The New York Times''. July 3, 1973.</ref> He emigrated to the [[United States]] in 1946, where he wrote several novels including ''The Triumph of Judas Iscariot'' (1950), ''Harem Cross'' (1953) and ''The Voice of an American'' (1960).
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===Early life===
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Yanigian was born in [[Erzerum]] in 1895, at the height of the [[Hamidian massacres|anti-Armenian]] massacres that had taken hold of the eastern provinces of the [[Ottoman Empire]]. His family was able to flee to a safer location, but when they returned to Erzerum eight years later to retrieve personal possessions they had hidden in a barn, his elder brother Hagop was killed by two Turkish men.<ref>Bobelian, Michael. ''Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice''. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009, pp. 3-4.</ref> Yanikian was studying to be an engineer at the [[Moscow State University|University of Moscow]] when World War I broke out. After learning of the Turkish persecution of Armenians during the [[Armenian Genocide|genocide of 1915-23]], he journeyed to the [[Caucasus]] in the spring of 1915 and joined a volunteer regiment of the [[Imperial Russian Army|Russian Army]] to find out the fate of his family members, whom he had not heard from since the outbreak of the war, living in the Ottoman Empire. He was assigned to an engineering unit that was tasked with mapping out the geography of the terrain ahead of the regular troops. As the Russian army advanced, Yanikian witnessed first hand the destruction wrought against the Armenians. Upon his arrival in Erzerum, he found his father's business in ruins and recognized the bodies of two of his relatives. In the course of the genocide he lost twenty-six members of his extended family.<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', pp. 4-6.</ref><ref name=ArmenianGuilty /><ref name=ArmenianHeld>{{citation | url = http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F70C17F83E551A7493CBAB178AD85F478785F9 | contribution = Armenian Held in Coast Slaying of Two Turks | title = The New York Times | date = July 29, 1973}}.</ref>  
  
On January 27, 1973, in the Biltmore Hotel, 78-year old emigrant Yanikian had lured a consul general and vice-consul of the [[Republic of Turkey]], who expected to receive gifts of art treasures for their government, but instead Yanikian pulled a Luger pistol from a hollowed-out book and emptied it at them. He called the reception desk, said he killed "two evils"<ref name=ArmenianHeld>[http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F70C17F83E551A7493CBAB178AD85F478785F9 Armenian Held in Coast Slaying of Two Turks]. ''The New York Times''. July 29, 1973</ref>, then sat calmly on the patio awaiting arrest. His stated purpose was "to demand justice" for the [[Armenian Genocide]].<ref>[http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE3DD1439F932A35750C0A962948260&sec=&spon= Imprisoned Armenian Dies, New York Times, March 1, 1984]</ref> 
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===Later life===
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Yanikian would later go on to complete his education in Russia and move to Iran in 1930 with his wife Suzanna. He oversaw the building of a railroad across Iran during the Second World War, as part of Allied efforts there.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty>{{citation | url = http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FA0F1FFE385C1A7A93C1A9178CD85F478785F9 | contribution = Armenian Guilty of Killing Turks | title = The New York Times | date = July 3, 1973}}.</ref> He emigrated to the [[United States]] in 1946, where he published several novels including {{citation | title = The Triumph of Judas Iscariot | year = 1950}}, ''Harem Cross'' (1953) and ''The Voice of an American'' (1960). In the late 1960s, however, events in Yanikian's personal life took a turn for the worst.
  
Yanikian phoned the front desk of the hotel from his room and requested that a Sheriff be contacted, because "I have just killed two men."<ref name=ArmenianHeld>[http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F70C17F83E551A7493CBAB178AD85F478785F9 Armenian Held in Coast Slaying of Two Turks]. ''The New York Times''. July 29, 1973</ref> Early reports suggested that Yanikian had been involved in an argument with the two men, whom he did not know.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty /><ref name=ArmenianHeld /> Yanikian was known to have expressed in an interview in 1966 that 26 members of his family had been killed in the Ottoman massacres of Armenians from 1915 onward.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty /><ref name=ArmenianHeld /> The Turkish Embassy reacted to the killings by calling on the United States to take action to protect its nationals, and the American Ambassador condemned the killings and stated that he and all Americans were "shocked at this senseless act of violence".<ref name=ArmenianHeld />
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The State Department refused to compel Iran to recompense him for $1.5 million he claimed he was owed in the construction work he had overseen there. In 1944 the Iranian court issued an award in favor of Yanikian against the [[Ministry of Roads and Transportation (Iran)|Iran's Ministry of Roads]], which stipulated that the Ministry was to compensate Yanikian for the implemented construction works by 26 November 1944, but the Ministry failed to pay the award until 15 August 1948, and Yanikian sought to recover the damages for the delay in payment. The Iranian government stated that Yanikian was paid in full, and the [[Iran–United States Claims Tribunal]] dismissed in 1985 the claims of Yanikian's attorneys citing the lack of jurisdiction over items of the claim.<ref>J. C. Adlam, M. E. MacGlashan. Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal Reports, Volume 8. Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0521464420, 9780521464420, pp 290-297</ref>
  
Yanikian would come to plead not guilty to two charges of First Degree Murder. Although over the course of the trial he would openly concede that he had caused the deaths of the men, he insisted that he was not guilty of any crime.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty /> In an interview with reporters in a court anteroom he at one point slammed his hands down on the table and declared that other people "have had their [[Nuremberg]] but we have not."<ref name=ArmenianGuilty /> Yanikian's defense counsel had attempted to bring in survivors of the Armenian Genocide to testify as to the trauma of the experiences, as part of the defense strategy of depicting Yanikian as having "diminished mental capacity", but these motions were denied in court.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty /> Yanikian was sentenced to life in prison on July 2, 1973; several members of the jury were reported to have had tears in their eyes as the verdict was read.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty />
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As his wife fell ill and expensive medical bills forced him into insolvency, he became despondent.<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', pp. 141-44.</ref> Memories of the genocide lingered in his mind and visions of his dead brother haunted him for years. The [[Republic of Turkey]]'s continual [[Denial of the Armenian Genocide|denial of the genocide]] remained a source of anguish and pain. Eventually, Yanikian, believing he had little left to live for, resolved to avenge the deaths of his family members and bring greater awareness to the genocide by organizing the assassination of the perpetrator country's agents, an act that took its cue from the example set by [[Soghomon Tehlirian]] fifty years earlier.<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', pp. 143-45.</ref>
  
Armenians hoped Yanikian's trial would provide a vehicle for proving the massacres in a court of law, while there were still surviving witnesses but the District Attorney didn't agree. Yanikian took the only [[Armenian Genocide]] witness stand, accompanied by his friend and interpreter, [[Santa Barbara, California|Santa Barbara]]n Aram Saroyan, the uncle of famous author [[William Saroyan]]. Yanikian told of his 26 family members killed in the massacres, and how he watched in hiding as marauding Turks slit his brother's throat. He concluded by saying that he killed the Turkish diplomats as representatives of the "government that had massacred his people". He was sentenced to life in prison in July 1973 and paroled in 1984, despite objections from the [[Turkish government]].<ref>Murder Will Out? District Attorney Regrets Not Allowing Genocide Testimony at Murder Trial, By David D. Minner // The Independent, Apr 2, 1998</ref> Two months later, Gourgen Yanikian was dead of [[natural causes]]. He was 88 years old.<ref>[http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE3DD1439F932A35750C0A962948260&sec=&spon= Imprisoned Armenian Dies, New York Times, March 1, 1984]</ref>
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===Assassination of Turkish consuls===
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On January 27, 1973, the 77-year old Yanikian lured the Turkish consul general Mehmet Baydar, 47, and vice-consul Bahadır Demir, 30, to a cottage at the [[Santa Barbara Biltmore|Biltmore Hotel]] in [[Santa Barbara, California|Santa Barbara]], promising to make a gift to the nation of Turkey of a [[bank note]] and a painting stolen from the palace of the [[Sultan of the Ottoman Empire]] more than a century earlier.<ref>"[http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=fbMiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fLMFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4349,3106195&dq UPI. Author Yanikian Refuses To Plea]." ''Beaver County Times''. Feb. 27, 1973.</ref> Yanikian had contacted the consul general three months earlier, and insisted that the consul general personally accept the painting, and since Baydar did not drive, Demir was asked to accompany him to provide transportation.<ref name="LAT">"Return of Painting Used as Lure in Consuls' Slayings, Police Say." ''[[Los Angeles Times]]''. January 29, 1973.</ref> Baydar, married and the father of two daughters, was a career diplomat, who had previously served in Paris and Washington. Demir was on his first foreign assignment.<ref name="LAT"/> That neither man was alive during the genocide "mattered little to Yanikian," according to journalist Michael Bobelian: "Just as Ottoman dehumanization of the Armenians a half century earlier opened the door for so many ordinary citizens to participate in the Genocide, Yanikian came to view the men not as human beings, but as symbols of decades of injustice."<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', p. 146.</ref>
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 +
Yanikian handed them a bank note, for which he was given a receipt, and the three men began to converse over lunch.<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', p. 147.</ref> It was during this time that Yanikian revealed to them that he was not Iranian, as he had told the consulate when he first contacted them, but Armenian. Baydar dropped the bank note in anger and a heated exchange took place. It was at this point that Yanikian yelled "I will kill you," pulled a [[Luger]] pistol from a hollowed-out book and emptied nine rounds at them, hitting them in the shoulders and chest, though none of the wounds were lethal. As Baydar and Demir lay on the ground Yanikian pulled out a [[Browning Arms Company|Browning]] pistol from a drawer and fired two rounds into the head of each man, "what he considered mercy shots."<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', pp. 147-48.</ref> He phoned the front desk of the hotel from his room and requested that the sheriff be contacted, because "I have just killed two men."<ref name= "ArmenianHeld"/>
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Before meeting the Turkish diplomats, Yanikian sent a letter to an Armenian language newspaper, urging Armenians to wage a war on on Turkish diplomats.<ref>West, Richard. "Armenian Held in 2 Slayings Urged 'War' on Turk Envoys." ''Los Angeles Times''. January 30, 1973</ref>
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 +
The Turkish Embassy reacted to the killings by calling on the United States to take action to protect its nationals, and the American Ambassador in [[Ankara]] condemned the killings, stating he and all Americans were "shocked at this senseless act of violence."<ref name=ArmenianHeld /> Fifty [[FBI]] agents were assigned to investigate Yanikian's background, including exploring possible (though ultimately non-existent) ties to the [[Soviets]] or to a well-organized "Armenian gang."<ref>See Bobelian, ''Children of Armenia'', pp. 153-54.</ref>
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===Trial and sentencing===
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Yanikian would come to plead not guilty to two charges of first degree murder. Although over the course of the trial he would openly concede that he had caused the deaths of the men, he insisted that he was not guilty of any crime.<ref name=ArmenianGuilty /> Yanikian insisted that what he did was "destroy two evils," as the victims were "not human" for him.<ref name="court">[http://law.justia.com/cases/california/calapp3d/39/366.html People v. Yanikian 39 Cal. App. 3d 366].</ref> Yanikian admitted that he conceived the assassination plan in April 1972, and meticulously implemented it over the intervening months between that time and the date of the actual homicides on January 27, 1973. He had originally planned to carry out the homicides in the consular offices, but changed his mind upon visiting the offices where he observed the presence of numerous employees who "might try to be heroes and get hurt."<ref name="court"/>
 +
 
 +
In an interview with reporters in a court anteroom he slammed his hands down on the table and declared that other people "have had their [[Nuremberg Trials|Nuremberg]] but we have not."<ref name = ArmenianGuilty /> Yanikian's defense counsel, headed by defense attorney James T. Lindsey, had attempted to bring in survivors of the Armenian Genocide to testify as to the trauma of the experiences, as part of the defense strategy of depicting Yanikian as having "diminished mental capacity," but these motions were denied in court.<ref name =ArmenianGuilty /> After Yanikian's death, District Attorney David D. Minier wrote, "Looking back, I regret that I did not allow the genocide to be proven. Not because Yanikian should have gone free, but because history's darkest chapters — its genocides — should be exposed, so their horrors are less likely to be repeated."<ref name="ReferenceA"/>
 +
 
 +
Armenians hoped Yanikian's trial would provide a vehicle for proving the massacres in a court of law, while there were still surviving witnesses but District Attorney Minier didn't agree. Yanikian took the only Armenian Genocide witness stand, accompanied by his friend and interpreter, Santa Barbaran Aram Saroyan, the uncle of famous author [[William Saroyan]]. Yanikian told of coming across mutilated corpses and finding the decapitated bodies of his relatives killed in the massacres, and how he watched in hiding as marauding Turks slit his brother's throat.<ref>Bobelian. ''Children of Armenia'', p. 156.</ref> He concluded by saying that he killed the Turkish diplomats as representatives of the "government that had massacred his people."<ref name="ReferenceA">{{citation | contribution = Murder Will Out? District Attorney Regrets Not Allowing Genocide Testimony at Murder Trial | first = David D | last = Minier | title = [[The Independent]] | date = Apr 2, 1998}}.</ref>  
 +
 
 +
Yanikian's defense was based entirely on his claim of diminished capacity. However, the jury did not find this to be convincing, because it was clear from the testimony of Yanikan that he understood he was taking the lives of two human beings and that he did so because he considered it justified.<ref name="court"/>
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Yanikian was sentenced to life in prison on July 2, 1973; several members of the jury were reported to have had tears in their eyes as the verdict was read by the forewoman.<ref>Bobelian, ''Children of Armenia'', p. 158.</ref> A [[Court of Appeals of California]] declined Yanikian's appeal and ruled that Yanikan's "ability to deliberate and to premeditate his crime was demonstrated by his own testimony of the elaborate preparations pursuant to a plan which was executed with logic and precision. Defendant's testimony showed the plan was initiated many months prior to its execution and involved the use of a bait to lure the consular officials to the place chosen by defendant."<ref name="court"/> Despite objections from the [[Turkish government]], Yanikian was paroled on January 31, 1984 because of poor health, and transferred to a [[Montebello, California|Montebello]] [[convalescent]] hospital. He died of of a [[heart attack]] one month later at the age of 88.<ref>"Paroled Assassin of Two Turkish Diplomats Dies." ''Los Angeles Times'', February 29, 1984.</ref><ref name="query.nytimes.com"/>
  
 
==Legacy==
 
==Legacy==
He is known to say, "Im not Gourgen M. Yanikian but unacknowledged history coming back for the 1,500,000 Armenians whose bones desecrate my invisible existence..."<ref>''cit. by'' The Armenian Genocide: Wartime Radicalization Or Premeditated Continuum, edited by Richard Hovannisian, Transaction Publishers, 2006, p. 72</ref> In death, Yanikian became a symbol to many Armenians of their resentment toward the Turkish government for refusing to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. Upon Yanikian's death, one of his attorneys, [[Bill Paparian]], said that he "is now a piece of Armenian history."<ref>Murder Will Out? District Attorney Regrets Not Allowing Genocide Testimony at Murder Trial, By David D. Minner // The Independent, Apr 2, 1998</ref> After Yanikian's death, District Attorney David D. Minner wrote: "Looking back, I regret that I did not allow the genocide to be proven. Not because Yanikian should have gone free, but because history's darkest chapters - its genocides - should be exposed, so their horrors are less likely to be repeated".<ref>Murder Will Out? District Attorney Regrets Not Allowing Genocide Testimony at Murder Trial, By David D. Minner // The Independent, Apr 2, 1998</ref>
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Yanikian is known to have remarked, "I’m not Gourgen Yanikian but unacknowledged history coming back for the 1,500,000 Armenians whose bones desecrate my invisible existence."<ref>Der Mugurdechian, Barlow. "Across the Chasm: From Catastrophe to Creativity" in ''The Armenian Genocide: Cultural and Ethical Legacies'', ed. [[Richard G. Hovannisian]]. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007, p. 72.</ref> In death, Yanikian became a symbol for many Armenians of their resentment toward the Turkish government for refusing to acknowledge the Armenian genocide.  
 +
 
 +
Upon Yanikian's death, one of his attorneys, [[Bill Paparian]], remarked that he "is now a piece of Armenian history."<ref name="ReferenceA"/>  
 
 
 
 
Yanikian would later be appropriated by the [[Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia]] as an iconic figure.<ref name=rapo>Rapoport, David C. ''Terrorism''. 2006, page 44-5</ref> At the beginning, it bore the name of "The Prisoner Kurken Yanikian Group".<ref>Near East/South Asia Report&#8206;, by United States Foreign Broadcast Information Service, United States Joint Publications Research Service, 1987, p. 3</ref> Because of this association, Yanikian's slayings have been characterized as "the opening salvo" of the armed attacks against the Turkish government and its agents.<ref>Masih, Joseph R. and Krikorian, Robert O. ''Armenia''. 1999, page xxxi</ref
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Yanikian would later be appropriated by the [[Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia]] as an iconic figure.<ref name=rapo>{{citation | last = Rapoport | first = David C | title = Terrorism | year = 2006 | pages= 44–5}}.</ref> At the beginning, it bore the name of "The Prisoner Kurken Yanikian Group".<ref>{{citation | title = Near East/South Asia Report | place = United States | publisher = Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Joint Publications Research Service | year = 1987 | page = 3}}.</ref> Because of this association, Yanikian's slayings have been characterized as "the opening salvo" of the armed attacks against the Turkish government and its agents.<ref>{{citation | last1 = Masih | first1 = Joseph R | last2= Krikorian | first2 = Robert O | title = Armenia: At the Crossroads |location = Amsterdam |publisher=Harwood Academic Publishers | year = 1999 | page = xxxi}}.</ref>   
 
 
According to Khachig Tololyan,
 
<blockquote>[Yanikian is] not understood in the context of his life, of his real biography, or even in the context of the brief autobiography we can glean from his utterances. He is assigned a regulative biography, and understood through it... enlisted in a resonating roll-call that blurs history, context, and nuance.<ref name=rapo /></blockquote>   
 
  
==Art==
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According to Khachig Tololyan, "[Yanikian is] not understood in the context of his life, of his real biography, or even in the context of the brief autobiography we can glean from his utterances. He is assigned a regulative biography, and understood through it... enlisted in a resonating roll-call that blurs history, context, and nuance."<ref name =rapo />
There is a conversation between the Brano and Gavra from [[Olen Steinhauer]]'s "Liberation Movements" dedicated to Yanikian's person:
 
*"Who's Gourgen Yanikian?" Gavra asked.
 
*"American citizen, Armenian descent. Two years ago he invited the Turkish consul general and the consul to lunch at the Baltimore Hotel in Santa Barbara, California. He shot them both with a Luger. Killed them."<ref>Liberation Movements, By Olen Steinhauer, Macmillan, 2007, p. 43</ref>
 
  
Margaret Bedrosian in her "The Magical Pine Ring" calls Yanikian "the alter ego of all Armenians who have wanted to bare the lie".<ref>The Magical Pine Ring: Culture and the Imagination in Armenian-American Literature&#8206;, by Margaret Bedrosian - 1991- p. 73</ref>
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==Cultural references==
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There is a conversation between the Brano and Gavra from [[Olen Steinhauer]]'s ''Liberation Movements'' dedicated to Yanikian's person:<br />
 +
"Who's Gourgen Yanikian?" Gavra asked.<br />
 +
"American citizen, Armenian descent. Two years ago he invited the Turkish consul general and the consul to lunch at the Baltimore Hotel in Santa Barbara, California. He shot them both with a Luger. Killed them."<ref>{{citation | title = Liberation Movements | first = Olen | last = Steinhauer | publisher = Macmillan | year = 2007 | page = 43}}.</ref>
  
==Books==
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==Bibliography==
 
===in English===
 
===in English===
*The Triumph of Judas Iscariot, Los Angeles: Research Publ. Co., 1950, 254 p.
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* {{citation | title = The Triumph of Judas Iscariot | place = Los Angeles | publisher = Research Publ. | year = 1950}}, 254 pp.
*Harem Cross: A Novel of the Near-East, New York: Exposition, 1953, 223 p.
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* {{citation | title = Harem Cross: A Novel of the Near-East | place = New York | publisher = Exposition | year = 1953}}, 223 p.
*The Resurrected Christ: A Novel, New York: Exposition, 1955, 141 p.
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* {{citation | title = The Resurrected Christ: A Novel | place = New York | publisher = Exposition | year = 1955}}, 141 pp.
*The Voice of an American, 1960, Society for the Science of Living; 147 p., ASIN: B0007FZ3L4
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* {{citation | title = The Voice of an American | year = 1960 | publisher = Society for the Science of Living | asin = B0007FZ3L4}}, 147 pp.
*Mirror in the Darkness, 1966, with Helen Rettig, New York: Exposition, 1966, 197 p.
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* {{citation | title = Mirror in the Darkness | year = 1966 | first2 = Helen | last2 = Rettig | place = New York | publisher = Exposition}}, 197 pp.
  
 
===in Armenian===
 
===in Armenian===
*Purpose and Justice (memoires from the prison), Yerevan, Tigran Mets Publ., 1999
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* {{citation | title = Purpose and Truth (memoirs written from prison) | place = Yerevan | publisher = Tigran Mets | year = 1999}}.
 
 
===About Yanikian===
 
*Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice, by Michael Bobelian, Simon & Schuster, 2009, ISBN 1416557253, 320 pages
 
*The fighting never stopped: a comprehensive guide to world conflicts since 1945, By Patrick Brogan, p. 550
 
*The Armenian genocide in perspective, By [[Richard G. Hovannisian]], p. 200
 
*Survivors: an oral history of the Armenian genocide, By Lorna Touryan Miller, p. 167
 
  
 
==See also==
 
==See also==
 
*[[Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia]]
 
*[[Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia]]
  
==References==
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==Notes==
<references />
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{{reflist|2}}
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==Further reading==
 +
*{{citation | title = Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice | first = Michael | last = Bobelian | publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 2009 | ISBN = 1-4165-5725-3}}.
  
 
==External links==
 
==External links==
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{{DEFAULTSORT:Yanikian, Gourgen}}
 
{{DEFAULTSORT:Yanikian, Gourgen}}
[[Category:List of Armenians]]
 

Revision as of 01:59, 4 September 2012

Gourgen_Yanikian&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png Gourgen Yanikian Mars symbol.svg
Gourgen Yanikian.jpg
Yanigian at his desk in Beverly Hills, early 1950s
Name in Armenian Գուրգեն Մկրտիչ Եանիկեան
Birthplace Erzurum
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Birth date 24 December 1895
Lived in Erzurum, Moscow, Iran, Los Angeles
Death date 1984/02/29
Death year 1984
Education University of Moscow
Languages Armenian, English, Farsi
Ethnicities Armenian
Dialects Western Armenian
Ancestral villages Erzurum
Spouses Suzanna Yanikian

Kourken Megerdich Yanigian (Armenian: Գուրգեն Մկրտիչ Եանիկեան, December 24, 1895 – February 29, 1984) was an Armenian American author, engineer and an Armenian Genocide survivor, who assassinated two Turkish consular officials (Los Angeles Consul General Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadır Demir) in California in 1973.[1]

Biography

Early life

Yanigian was born in Erzerum in 1895, at the height of the anti-Armenian massacres that had taken hold of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. His family was able to flee to a safer location, but when they returned to Erzerum eight years later to retrieve personal possessions they had hidden in a barn, his elder brother Hagop was killed by two Turkish men.[2] Yanikian was studying to be an engineer at the University of Moscow when World War I broke out. After learning of the Turkish persecution of Armenians during the genocide of 1915-23, he journeyed to the Caucasus in the spring of 1915 and joined a volunteer regiment of the Russian Army to find out the fate of his family members, whom he had not heard from since the outbreak of the war, living in the Ottoman Empire. He was assigned to an engineering unit that was tasked with mapping out the geography of the terrain ahead of the regular troops. As the Russian army advanced, Yanikian witnessed first hand the destruction wrought against the Armenians. Upon his arrival in Erzerum, he found his father's business in ruins and recognized the bodies of two of his relatives. In the course of the genocide he lost twenty-six members of his extended family.[3][4][5]

Later life

Yanikian would later go on to complete his education in Russia and move to Iran in 1930 with his wife Suzanna. He oversaw the building of a railroad across Iran during the Second World War, as part of Allied efforts there.[4] He emigrated to the United States in 1946, where he published several novels including The Triumph of Judas Iscariot, 1950 , Harem Cross (1953) and The Voice of an American (1960). In the late 1960s, however, events in Yanikian's personal life took a turn for the worst.

The State Department refused to compel Iran to recompense him for $1.5 million he claimed he was owed in the construction work he had overseen there. In 1944 the Iranian court issued an award in favor of Yanikian against the Iran's Ministry of Roads, which stipulated that the Ministry was to compensate Yanikian for the implemented construction works by 26 November 1944, but the Ministry failed to pay the award until 15 August 1948, and Yanikian sought to recover the damages for the delay in payment. The Iranian government stated that Yanikian was paid in full, and the Iran–United States Claims Tribunal dismissed in 1985 the claims of Yanikian's attorneys citing the lack of jurisdiction over items of the claim.[6]

As his wife fell ill and expensive medical bills forced him into insolvency, he became despondent.[7] Memories of the genocide lingered in his mind and visions of his dead brother haunted him for years. The Republic of Turkey's continual denial of the genocide remained a source of anguish and pain. Eventually, Yanikian, believing he had little left to live for, resolved to avenge the deaths of his family members and bring greater awareness to the genocide by organizing the assassination of the perpetrator country's agents, an act that took its cue from the example set by Soghomon Tehlirian fifty years earlier.[8]

Assassination of Turkish consuls

On January 27, 1973, the 77-year old Yanikian lured the Turkish consul general Mehmet Baydar, 47, and vice-consul Bahadır Demir, 30, to a cottage at the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara, promising to make a gift to the nation of Turkey of a bank note and a painting stolen from the palace of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire more than a century earlier.[9] Yanikian had contacted the consul general three months earlier, and insisted that the consul general personally accept the painting, and since Baydar did not drive, Demir was asked to accompany him to provide transportation.[10] Baydar, married and the father of two daughters, was a career diplomat, who had previously served in Paris and Washington. Demir was on his first foreign assignment.[10] That neither man was alive during the genocide "mattered little to Yanikian," according to journalist Michael Bobelian: "Just as Ottoman dehumanization of the Armenians a half century earlier opened the door for so many ordinary citizens to participate in the Genocide, Yanikian came to view the men not as human beings, but as symbols of decades of injustice."[11]

Yanikian handed them a bank note, for which he was given a receipt, and the three men began to converse over lunch.[12] It was during this time that Yanikian revealed to them that he was not Iranian, as he had told the consulate when he first contacted them, but Armenian. Baydar dropped the bank note in anger and a heated exchange took place. It was at this point that Yanikian yelled "I will kill you," pulled a Luger pistol from a hollowed-out book and emptied nine rounds at them, hitting them in the shoulders and chest, though none of the wounds were lethal. As Baydar and Demir lay on the ground Yanikian pulled out a Browning pistol from a drawer and fired two rounds into the head of each man, "what he considered mercy shots."[13] He phoned the front desk of the hotel from his room and requested that the sheriff be contacted, because "I have just killed two men."[5]

Before meeting the Turkish diplomats, Yanikian sent a letter to an Armenian language newspaper, urging Armenians to wage a war on on Turkish diplomats.[14]

The Turkish Embassy reacted to the killings by calling on the United States to take action to protect its nationals, and the American Ambassador in Ankara condemned the killings, stating he and all Americans were "shocked at this senseless act of violence."[5] Fifty FBI agents were assigned to investigate Yanikian's background, including exploring possible (though ultimately non-existent) ties to the Soviets or to a well-organized "Armenian gang."[15]

Trial and sentencing

Yanikian would come to plead not guilty to two charges of first degree murder. Although over the course of the trial he would openly concede that he had caused the deaths of the men, he insisted that he was not guilty of any crime.[4] Yanikian insisted that what he did was "destroy two evils," as the victims were "not human" for him.[16] Yanikian admitted that he conceived the assassination plan in April 1972, and meticulously implemented it over the intervening months between that time and the date of the actual homicides on January 27, 1973. He had originally planned to carry out the homicides in the consular offices, but changed his mind upon visiting the offices where he observed the presence of numerous employees who "might try to be heroes and get hurt."[16]

In an interview with reporters in a court anteroom he slammed his hands down on the table and declared that other people "have had their Nuremberg but we have not."[4] Yanikian's defense counsel, headed by defense attorney James T. Lindsey, had attempted to bring in survivors of the Armenian Genocide to testify as to the trauma of the experiences, as part of the defense strategy of depicting Yanikian as having "diminished mental capacity," but these motions were denied in court.[4] After Yanikian's death, District Attorney David D. Minier wrote, "Looking back, I regret that I did not allow the genocide to be proven. Not because Yanikian should have gone free, but because history's darkest chapters — its genocides — should be exposed, so their horrors are less likely to be repeated."[17]

Armenians hoped Yanikian's trial would provide a vehicle for proving the massacres in a court of law, while there were still surviving witnesses but District Attorney Minier didn't agree. Yanikian took the only Armenian Genocide witness stand, accompanied by his friend and interpreter, Santa Barbaran Aram Saroyan, the uncle of famous author William Saroyan. Yanikian told of coming across mutilated corpses and finding the decapitated bodies of his relatives killed in the massacres, and how he watched in hiding as marauding Turks slit his brother's throat.[18] He concluded by saying that he killed the Turkish diplomats as representatives of the "government that had massacred his people."[17]

Yanikian's defense was based entirely on his claim of diminished capacity. However, the jury did not find this to be convincing, because it was clear from the testimony of Yanikan that he understood he was taking the lives of two human beings and that he did so because he considered it justified.[16]

Yanikian was sentenced to life in prison on July 2, 1973; several members of the jury were reported to have had tears in their eyes as the verdict was read by the forewoman.[19] A Court of Appeals of California declined Yanikian's appeal and ruled that Yanikan's "ability to deliberate and to premeditate his crime was demonstrated by his own testimony of the elaborate preparations pursuant to a plan which was executed with logic and precision. Defendant's testimony showed the plan was initiated many months prior to its execution and involved the use of a bait to lure the consular officials to the place chosen by defendant."[16] Despite objections from the Turkish government, Yanikian was paroled on January 31, 1984 because of poor health, and transferred to a Montebello convalescent hospital. He died of of a heart attack one month later at the age of 88.[20][1]

Legacy

Yanikian is known to have remarked, "I’m not Gourgen Yanikian but unacknowledged history coming back for the 1,500,000 Armenians whose bones desecrate my invisible existence."[21] In death, Yanikian became a symbol for many Armenians of their resentment toward the Turkish government for refusing to acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

Upon Yanikian's death, one of his attorneys, Bill Paparian, remarked that he "is now a piece of Armenian history."[17]

Yanikian would later be appropriated by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia as an iconic figure.[22] At the beginning, it bore the name of "The Prisoner Kurken Yanikian Group".[23] Because of this association, Yanikian's slayings have been characterized as "the opening salvo" of the armed attacks against the Turkish government and its agents.[24]

According to Khachig Tololyan, "[Yanikian is] not understood in the context of his life, of his real biography, or even in the context of the brief autobiography we can glean from his utterances. He is assigned a regulative biography, and understood through it... enlisted in a resonating roll-call that blurs history, context, and nuance."[22]

Cultural references

There is a conversation between the Brano and Gavra from Olen Steinhauer's Liberation Movements dedicated to Yanikian's person:
—"Who's Gourgen Yanikian?" Gavra asked.
—"American citizen, Armenian descent. Two years ago he invited the Turkish consul general and the consul to lunch at the Baltimore Hotel in Santa Barbara, California. He shot them both with a Luger. Killed them."[25]

Bibliography

in English

  • The Triumph of Judas Iscariot, Los Angeles: Research Publ., 1950 , 254 pp.
  • Harem Cross: A Novel of the Near-East, New York: Exposition, 1953 , 223 p.
  • The Resurrected Christ: A Novel, New York: Exposition, 1955 , 141 pp.
  • The Voice of an American, Society for the Science of Living, 1960, ASIN B0007FZ3L4 , 147 pp.
  • Mirror in the Darkness, New York: Exposition, 1966 , 197 pp.

in Armenian

  • Purpose and Truth (memoirs written from prison), Yerevan: Tigran Mets, 1999 .

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Imprisoned Armenian Dies", The New York Times, March 1, 1984, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE3DD1439F932A35750C0A962948260&sec=&spon= .
  2. Bobelian, Michael. Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009, pp. 3-4.
  3. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, pp. 4-6.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Armenian Guilty of Killing Turks", The New York Times, July 3, 1973, http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FA0F1FFE385C1A7A93C1A9178CD85F478785F9 .
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Armenian Held in Coast Slaying of Two Turks", The New York Times, July 29, 1973, http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F70C17F83E551A7493CBAB178AD85F478785F9 .
  6. J. C. Adlam, M. E. MacGlashan. Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal Reports, Volume 8. Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0521464420, 9780521464420, pp 290-297
  7. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, pp. 141-44.
  8. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, pp. 143-45.
  9. "UPI. Author Yanikian Refuses To Plea." Beaver County Times. Feb. 27, 1973.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Return of Painting Used as Lure in Consuls' Slayings, Police Say." Los Angeles Times. January 29, 1973.
  11. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, p. 146.
  12. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, p. 147.
  13. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, pp. 147-48.
  14. West, Richard. "Armenian Held in 2 Slayings Urged 'War' on Turk Envoys." Los Angeles Times. January 30, 1973
  15. See Bobelian, Children of Armenia, pp. 153-54.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 People v. Yanikian 39 Cal. App. 3d 366.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Minier, David D (Apr 2, 1998), "Murder Will Out? District Attorney Regrets Not Allowing Genocide Testimony at Murder Trial", The Independent .
  18. Bobelian. Children of Armenia, p. 156.
  19. Bobelian, Children of Armenia, p. 158.
  20. "Paroled Assassin of Two Turkish Diplomats Dies." Los Angeles Times, February 29, 1984.
  21. Der Mugurdechian, Barlow. "Across the Chasm: From Catastrophe to Creativity" in The Armenian Genocide: Cultural and Ethical Legacies, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007, p. 72.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Rapoport, David C (2006), Terrorism, pp. 44–5 .
  23. Near East/South Asia Report, United States: Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Joint Publications Research Service, 1987, p. 3 .
  24. Masih, Joseph R; Krikorian, Robert O (1999), Armenia: At the Crossroads, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, p. xxxi .
  25. Steinhauer, Olen (2007), Liberation Movements, Macmillan, p. 43 .

Further reading

  • Bobelian, Michael (2009), Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 1-4165-5725-3 .

External links