NEW YORK (Armenian Weekly)—Eric Bogosian, the star of “Law & Order-Criminal Intent” and the now cult-classic “Talk Radio,” spoke to an audience of about 100 people on February 2 at the Cornell Club in New York about his artistic career, his Armenian background, and his research project on Soghomon Tehlirian, the assassin of Talaat Pasha, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide.
The event, “Searching for Tehlirian,” was organized by the New York Chapter of the Hamazkayin Armenian Education and Cultural Society, and was the inaugural lecture of the Hamazkayin Arts & Letters Series.
Following brief opening remarks by Avedis Hadjian, chairman of Hamazkayin of New York, Bogosian, whose distinguished acting career and trajectory as a writer and playwright make him the most renowned Armenian American actor of the day, started by talking about growing up in Watertown, Mass. “My grandfather used to say that the whole world is Armenian because we all are descended from Noah,” he said to general laughter.
Bogosian invited the audience to view in a new light those Armenians who, like him, grew up generally detached from community institutions, yet who are as Armenian in their own way as those more involved in their activities. As his artistic career began to take off, he explained, he faced pressures to change his last name to something less “ethnic” and more appealing to the mainstream public. “You are only going to get roles as a terrorist,” he was told, which didn’t deter him.
“When are you going to do something about the genocide?” Armenian Americans have asked him. “When are you going to write a play with an Armenian theme?” He never felt compelled to write something about those issues without the capacity to dramatize it.
Then, as the dramas of the Balkan wars were unfolding in the 90’s, Bogosian suddenly felt the connection to his own history. “When I saw what was going on in Serbia, I realized this is what happened to my own family,” he said. So he set out to look into the genocide and focused on the story of Soghomon Tehlirian.
Bogosian’s initial intent was to fictionalize Tehlirian’s assassination of Talaat in Berlin on March 15, 1921. As he delved deeper into the topic, in the process amassing a library of more than 1,000 volumes on Armenian history and related issues, Bogosian discovered new angles to the genocide plan and the plot to kill the masterminds of the genocide—plans that remain relatively unknown. He saw the Armenian drama in a geopolitical context that involved Germany, Great Britain, and the race to control Caspian and Middle East oil, including Calouste Gulbenkian’s role.
These and other new findings nudged Bogosian towards turning his project into a non-fiction book, which will likely come out later this year or in early 2013 as he continues his research and field studies. His research includes an interview with Sylva Natalie Manoogian and unsuccessful attempts to see documents by her father, Armenian poet Shahan Natalie, the mastermind of “Operation Nemesis,” which aimed to kill the authors of the Armenian Genocide. “It’s a secret,” Natalie Manoogian told him about his writings on the covert operation, by which Armenian activists killed Djemal Pasha, Said Halim, Talaat, and others.