The Library of Congress, in a letter sent on Friday to the Armenian National Committee of America, put in writing its refusal to correct its outdated “Armenian Massacres” subject heading to “Armenian Genocide” in the wake of last year’s Congressional passage of Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.296 and S.Res.150).
In a December 4, 2019, letter to the Library of Congress, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian had called on Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden to “bring this great American institution’s policies and practices into alignment with this resolution’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide and its clearly stated rejection of any and all efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide.” The ANCA letter went on to call on the Library to direct the Congressional Research Service and the libraries, offices, services, and other entities within the Library of Congress to “end the practice of using euphemistic, equivocal, or evasive language to avoid the term Armenian Genocide.”
On June 19th, following the launch two weeks ago of an ANCA online campaign – anca.org/library – the Library of Congress, despite being an agency of the U.S. federal government’s legislative branch, a co-equal partner of the executive and judicial branches, justified its refusal to make this correction because it “defers to the President and the State Department on the terminology and refrains from using the word genocide in the official subject heading.”
“Prior to Raphael Lemkin coining of the term ‘genocide’ in 1944, the term ‘Armenian Massacres’ was a broadly accepted and entirely acceptable subject heading for books on this subject. After the term genocide came into common usage (including in provisions of U.S. and international law), and – more directly – as a result of the Republic of Turkey’s global campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide, the term “Armenian Massacres” came to be commonly understood as evasive, euphemistic terminology deployed by Ankara and its allies for the explicit purpose of downplaying the Armenian Genocide and diminishing the full historic, moral, political, and legal meaning of this crime,” said Hamparian. “Today, the term ‘Armenian Massacres,’ despite its clearly innocent origins, is most commonly employed in civic discourse as a form of denial, a cynical phrase used to obscure the truth or a stand-in to avoid use of the proper phrase, ‘Armenian Genocide.’ We look forward to remaining engaged – along with our Congressional allies, community supporters, and coalition partners – until the Library of Congress reflects the clearly expressed will of Congress.”
The ANCA will continue to press for this correction and encourages individuals to request this changes via www.anca.org/library and additional online initiatives that will be rolled out in coming days and weeks.
The full text of the Library of Congress letter is provided below:
Letter from the Library of Congress to the Armenian National Committee of America
June 19, 2020
Dear Mr. Hamparian,
Thank you for your letter of December 4, 2019, and your interest in the Library of Congress. You asked that the Library of Congress change the Library of Congress Subject Heading (http://id.loc.gov/authorities/subjects/sh85007296) from “Armenian massacres, 1915-1923″ to “Armenian Genocide, 1915-1923.”
I understand that your request is in response to the passage of H.Res.296 by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 29, 2019, as well as the passage of S.Res.150 by the US Senate on December 12, 2019. In both cases, Members of Congress voted for resolutions expressing that “it is the sense of [each body] that it is the policy of the United States government to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.” In doing so, each body offered official Congressional recognition regarding the use of “genocide” versus “massacres.”
Within a week of the Senate passage however, the State Department responded stating a different official US government policy: “The position of the Administration has not changed. Our views are reflected in the President’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.” The reference was to his April 24, 2019, statement on Armenian Remembrance Day where he acknowledged the atrocity differently. The President again made a similar statement on April 24, 2020.
Deciding whether to declare the atrocities a genocide is an enormous foreign policy and diplomatic issue and is the purview of the president and the State Department, not the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress therefore defers to the president and the State Department on the terminology and refrains from using the word genocide in the official subject heading.
Rest assured, while the current Library of Congress subject heading for the event is Armenian massacres, 1915-1923 there is also a see reference from Armenian genocide, 1915-1923. This allows library users to search under that phrase to find content under the official heading.
Therefore, the word genocide is present in LCSH, but is not part of the official heading. If the State Department and the president were to reverse course and declare the atrocities a genocide, then the Library of Congress would also consider a change to the official heading.
Thank you again for your interest in the Library of Congress. I hope this information is helpful.
Robin L. Dale, Associate Librarian for Library Services