City of Orphans, The
Relief Workers, Commissars and the "Builders of the New Armenia" Alexandropol/Leninakan 1919-1931

(ISBN: 978-1-884186-60-8)
(ISBN: 978-1-884186-60-8)
2016 Hollis
613 pages
Size: 8" x 10 1/2"
Language(s): English

This volume tells the story of the City of Orphans in four parts. Part One looks at events that led up to its formation in Alexandropol at a time when the city was experiencing a radical human and physical transformation under military imperatives; the initial organization of relief and orphan care; the first exodus of relief workers in early spring 1918 and their return about one year later; initial efforts for, and concerns over the concentration of orphans in Alexandropol; NER's second, and sudden exodus from Armenia in May 1920, and its subsequent return a few months later. Part Two, which spans the decade of the 1920s, continues with NER's mistreatment by the local Revolutionary Committee in Alexandropol in fall 1920 followed by a third exodus, this time to Kars in December 1920 under the protection of Mustafa Kemal; the subsequent expulsion of 6,000 to 7,000 orphans from Kars to Alexandropol in the dead of winter 1921; NER's return to Armenia in response to SSRA's earnest pleas; the early phase of negotiations and cooperation between the leaderships of NER and SSRA, indicating that the policies of the early leaders of Soviet Armenia were more nuanced than is often projected. Part Two continues with the completion of concentration and the trajectory of expansion in NER's programs in Alexandropol, renamed Leninakan in 1924 in honor of Russian revolutionary and Bolshevik Party founder Vladimir Lenin; SSRA's policies with respect to orphan education and upbringing; and ends with the sharp reduction of the orphan population of the City of Orphans. Part Three covers the reconfiguration and retrenchment of the City of Orphans into the Polygon; the growing estrangement between NER and SSRA, followed by NER's final withdrawal from Armenia in spring 1931. The final chapter in Part Three consists of cursory glances at the lives of a handful of orphans and orphanage workers after they had joined the world outside the City of Orphans. Part Four shows two lists, both incomplete, which together provide a glimpse of the community of orphans and employees of the City of Orphans. The first list is a compilation of the names, place and date of birth of over 11,500 orphans. The list was compiled around the year 2000 and resides in the National Archives of Armenia in Yerevan. The second list carries the names of 705 Americans and Armenians who worked at the City of Orphans between 1919 and 1931. The list has been compiled from a large variety of archival documents, newspapers, journal articles, memoirs, letters, and autobiographies. While it remains incomplete, it has been included to project the tremendous labor required to operate an institution that at its peak most probably cared for over 25,000 orphans, and by way of acknowledging the contributions of all those who were part of the City of Orphans, from the washerwoman to the director general.

This book is an attempt to honor a generation of children who had the tenacity to endure and the determination to survive their rites of passage, in one way or the other.

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