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The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide

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Volume 21

War and Genocide

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The Spirit of the Laws

The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide

Taner Akçam and Umit Kurt
Translated by Aram Arkun

220 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-623-0 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (July 2015)

ISBN  978-1-78533-755-0 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (November 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78238-624-7 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This book is a valuable addition to filling the gaps of our understanding of genocide and helps readers navigate complex terrain in the case study presented… I recommend this book as a case study to be included in graduate level courses. In addition to its thorough review of the questionable statecraft of genocidal states, it is a reminder of the merits of engaged scholarship. Akçam and Kurt, by sharing their research as an act of solidarity with citizens who continue to challenge state restraints and master narratives based on genocide, make a contribution to the ongoing process of crafting a just society.” • Histoire Sociale/Social History

“[This volume] will make an invaluable contribution to the field of genocide studies. It is meticulously researched and features superb attention to detail.” • Deborah Mayersen, University of Wollongong

“Akçam and Kurt have written a fundamentally important book... We know that genocides are accompanied by the expropriation of the assets possessed by the targeted population… But nothing like that has been done for the Armenian Genocide—until now.” • Eric Weitz, CUNY City College


Pertinent to contemporary demands for reparations from Turkey is the relationship between law and property in connection with the Armenian Genocide. This book examines the confiscation of Armenian properties during the genocide and subsequent attempts to retain seized Armenian wealth. Through the close analysis of laws and treaties, it reveals that decrees issued during the genocide constitute central pillars of the Turkish system of property rights, retaining their legal validity, and although Turkey has acceded through international agreements to return Armenian properties, it continues to refuse to do so. The book demonstrates that genocides do not depend on the abolition of the legal system and elimination of rights, but that, on the contrary, the perpetrators of genocide manipulate the legal system to facilitate their plans.

Taner Akçam holds the Kaloosdian and Mugar Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University. His best-known books are A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility (Metropolitan Books, 2006);  Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials, with Vahakn Dadrian (Berghahn Books, 2011); and The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, (Princeton University Press, 2012), which in 2013 received the Middle East Studies Association’s Hourani Book Prize and  was listed by Foreign Affairs as “Best International Relations Books of 2012.”

Umit Kurt received his PhD in History from Clark University in 2016, and his MA in European Studies from Sabancı University in 2008. He was a visiting professor in the Armenian Studies Program at California State University in 2015–16, and a post-doctoral fellow at CMES, Harvard University in 2016–17. Currently, he is the Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Polonsky Academy for Advanced Studies.

The Jerair Nishanian Foundation generously supported and financed the translation of this book.
Subject: Genocide History
Area: Middle East & Israel



Chapter 1. The Laws and Decrees of the Committee of Union and Progress Period

  • The Decrees and Regulations of 17, 30 and 31 May 1915
  • The Regulation of 10 June 1915
  • The Temporary Law of 26 September 1915 and the Regulation of 8 November 1915
  • A Brief Evaluation

Chapter 2. The Armistice Period and the Returning Armenians

  • The First Ones Returning from Deportation
  • 12 January 1920: The Ittihadist Laws Are Annulled
  • A Brief Evaluation
  • The Treaty of Sèvres of 10 August 1920
  • The Prohibition against the Return of Greeks and Armenians Staying Outside of Turkey
  • The Articles of Law Used to Prevent Their Return
  • Policies to Obstruct Repatriation
  • The Prohibition of Domestic Travel and Migration
  • A Brief Evaluation

Chapter 3. The Turkish Republic Prior to Lausanne

  • The First Laws and Regulations of the Turkish Grand National Assembly
  • The 20 April 1922 Abandoned Properties Law
  • The Regulations of November to December 1922
  • Regulations Relevant to Istanbul
  • The 14 September 1922 “Abrogation of the Property Regulation”
  • Why Was There a Return to the Ittihadist Laws of the Genocide?
  • The Plunder of Izmir and the Independence Tribunals
  • Return to the Ittihadist Mentality: The 15 April Law and 29 April Regulation of 1923
  • A Brief Evaluation
  • Abandoned Properties and National Tax Obligations (Tekalif-i Milliye)

Chapter 4. The Treaty of Lausanne: A Turning Point

  • The Abandoned Properties Question in the Negotiations and Treaty
  • Mass and Individual Repatriations and the Armenian Homeland
  • A Plan to Expel the Armenian Population
  • The Question of the Belongings Which Were Left Behind
  • The Amnesty: Draft Proposal and Final Form
  • The Lausanne Regulations: The Question of Nationality
  • The Lausanne Regulations: Property, Rights and Interests, or, The Issue of Compensation
  • A Brief Evaluation of Lausanne

Chapter 5. After Lausanne: The Armenians Remaining Outside of Turkey

  • The Treaties of Alexandrapol (Gyumri), Kars and Moscow
  • Turkey-France: A Pair of Treaties
  • The 25 October 1934 Turkey-US Compensation Treaty
  • An Interim Note on the US Compensation Treaty
  • The International Commission and Mixed Arbitral Tribunals

Chapter 6. Turkey after Lausanne: Virtually Raising a Wall around Its Borders Like a Fortress

  • Armerican Armenians Are Not Permitted to Enter Turkey
  • The Return of the Armenians: A Question of the Honor and Pride of the State
  • “To Allow Their Return…Means to Waste the Blood We Spilled”
  • The Legal Vacuum Created by Lausanne on Repatriation
  • The Travel Regulation: Bans on Entry into the Country and Domestic Travel
  • Prohibitions on Domestic Travel
  • Passport Laws

Chapter 7. Domestic Legal Regulations During the Republican Period

  • The First Adjustments
  • The 13 June 1926 Regulation
  • 1928: The Distribution of Title Deeds and the Transfer of Revenue to the Treasury Begin
  • The 22 April 1963 Constitutional Court Decision
  • The Citizenship Laws of 1928 and 1964
  • Those Removed from Citizenship and the Liquidation of Their Properties
  • The Abandoned Properties Laws and the Present Situation
  • The 1983 and 2001 Circulars of the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadaster
  • Profound Fear: Title Deed Registries



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