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Gourgen Mkrtich YANIKIAN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: "To demand justice" for the Armenian Genocide
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: January 27, 1973
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: December 24, 1895
Victims profile: Bahadir Demir and Mehmet Baydar (Turkish consular officials)
Method of murder: Shooting (Luger pistol)
Location: California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in July 1973. Paroled in 1984. Died March 27, 1984

Gourgen Mkrtich (Megerdich) Yanikian (December 24, 1895, Erzerum, Ottoman Armenia - March 27, 1984, USA) was an Armenian author, engineer and an Armenian Genocide survivor who assassinated two Turkish consular officials in California in 1973.


He studied as an engineer at the University of Moscow and emigrated to the United States, where he wrote a number of novels included The Triumph of Judas Iscariot (1950), Harem Cross (1953) and The Voice of an American (1960).

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", then sat calmly on the patio awaiting arrest. His stated purpose was "to demand justice" for the Armenian Genocide.

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 Barbaran 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. Finally, he said 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, over the objection of the Turkish government. Two months later, Gourgen Yanikian was dead of natural causes. He was 88 years old.

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..."

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."

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".

Yanikian would later be appropriated by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia as an iconic figure. At the beginning, it bore the name of "The Prisoner Kurken Yanikian Group".


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."

Margaret Bedrosian in her "The Magical Pine Ring" calls Yanikian "the alter ego of all Armenians who have wanted to bare the lie".


The victims


  Bahadir Demir           Mehmet Baydar



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