Archive for the ‘History’ Category

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee [ANEC])


The “Self-Liquidation” of the

Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Yerevan

(November 20-23, 1923)


The first years of the Soviet experience were marked by the struggle to establish the foundations of the new regime that included the need to end all remaining opposed forces throughout the Soviet Union. Ceremonies of “self-liquidation” of various parties that had been on the anti-Soviet front were staged.

The turn of the Southern Caucasus came in 1923. First the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (June) and then Georgian Menshevik (Social Democrats) and Azerbaijani Musavat parties (both in August) announced their dissolution in congresses “organized” by their ex-members. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation followed suit in November.

After the Sovietization of Armenia in December 1920 and the retreat of the leadership of the party from the country following the revolt of February 1921, the A.R.F. was going through an organizational crisis, which was part of the critical moment being lived by the Armenian people worldwide. It was an hour of reckoning and self-criticism, as the Vienna Conference held in April-May 1923 showed. This conference decided to convene abroad what would be the 10th World Congress of the A.R.F.

The purpose of the “Congress of Former Dashnaks in Armenia” was to impede the reconstitution of the A.R.F. outside Armenia. The Armenian Communists’ concern was to combat the idea of independence and to renounce publicly any territorial claims against the neighbor republics and Turkey, aiming “to open the eyes of the Armenian workers of the colonies."

Upon the invitation of an “organizing bureau” of seventeen members, 247 delegates representing 4,032 members of the party (a striking number in comparison to the number of members of the Communist Party of Armenia, namely, 4,230) gathered at the State Theater of Armenia on November 20, 1923. The opening was by young agronomist and writer Aksel Bakunts (1899-1937), who would soon become one of the leading story writers of Soviet Armenia before his death in the Stalinist purges. As he said in his opening remarks, the congress was organized to allow the “four thousand Dashnak party members who had never been able to express their aspirations” to break with their old party and “to put their revolutionary energies at the service . . . of the Soviet state.” During three days, the delegates evaluated the current situation of the A.R.F., analyzed critically its ideology and its political activities during the preceding thirty years, and measured the extent of its current activities in an environment that enjoyed relative freedom of expression but did not lack theatrical elements. Old Bolshevik Askanaz Mravian had a major address during the second day of sessions, where he analyzed the international and domestic situation in Armenia and Soviet Russia. The closing address on November 23 was by Lukashin (Sargis Srapionian), chairman of the Council of Popular Commissars of Armenia (equivalent to prime minister) and representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

The congress stressed that the peasants and workers of Armenia, whose fate had been sacrificed during the previous years at the altar of “national independence,” would henceforth enjoy “peace and security.” It called upon Armenian workers abroad to liquidate the A.R.F. committees and to struggle against capitalism, waiting for the final victory of the international working class, which would allow the resolution of the “bloody question of the liberation of the small nations.”

The main utility of the congress was internal. The “former Dashnaks” contributed to the legitimization of Soviet rule in Armenia playing the role of mediators between the Communist Party, yet poorly rooted in the country, and a population longing for peace and security. The congress failed in its key mission however, as the A.R.F. gathered its 10th World Congress from November 1924-January 1925 in Paris and retained its goals for a free, independent, and united Armenia in its program, although stressing that it had no plan to overthrow the Soviet regime. A.R.F. clandestine structures would remain active in Armenia until 1933.



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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee [ANEC])


Birth of Mikael Nalbandian

(November 14, 1829)


Francis Scott Key is just remembered as the author of the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem. It is not the same in the case of Mikael Nalbandian, who was an influential intellectual of the nineteenth century and is an important name in the history of Armenian culture, besides being the author of the lyrics of the Armenian anthem.Nalbandian

Nalbandian was born on November 14, 1829, in Nor Nakhichevan, the town close to Rostov-on-Don founded in the late eighteenth century by Armenian emigrants from Crimea, in the family of a craftsman. He studied in his hometown at the school of Gabriel Patkanian, and for a while he was classmate of his son, the future poet Rafael Patkanian (Kamar Katipa). He worked as a secretary in the Armenian diocese of Nor Nakhichevan and Besarabia from 1848-1853. Then he left his post and went to Moscow, where he taught Armenian language at the Lazarian College for a short while, and took classes at the Medicine School of Moscow University as an auditor (1854-1858).

Similar to Khachatur Abovian, Nalbandian championed the introduction of Modern Armenian (ashkharhapar) instead of Classical Armenian (krapar), and confronted the opposition of ecclesiastics and conservatives. He translated poems of Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Heinrich Heine, and others. Among his own poetry, three poems became favorites of the public: “The Song of the Italian Girl” (Idalatsi aghchga yerke), “Freedom” (Azadutiun), and “Days of Childhood” (Mangootian orer). The first, better known as Mer Hairenik (“Our Fatherland”), would become the anthem of the first Republic of Armenia in 1918, and was adopted again after the new independence of 1991.


A statue of Nalbandian located on the street named after the author in central Yerevan.

Nalbandian published the journal Hiusisapayl (Aurora Borealis) with another influential intellectual, Stepanos Nazarian (1812-1879), in Moscow. During its five years of existence (1859-1864), the journal became a leading name in the cultural awakening of Eastern Armenians. Nalbandian had already made a name for himself since the 1850s due to his progressive and liberal views, as well as his outspoken and ironic style. Reform and renewal were his main ideas, as he espoused them in his writings on different issues. He published various political tracts, of which the most important was Agriculture as the Right Way (1862), where he criticized the peasant reform of 1861 in Russia.

The writer made two trips to Europe (1859 and 1860-1862), and he also visited India. In London he became friends with various famous Russian revolutionaries, such as Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin. After his return in 1862, he was arrested by the Russian secret police and spent three years in prison in St. Petersburg. He was accused of inciting anti-government sentiments and exiled to the fortress of Kamyshin, in the province of Saratov. He passed away at the age of 37, victim of tuberculosis, on April 12, 1866. He was buried in the Armenian monastery of Holy Cross, in Nakhichevan-on-Don. An important street in central Yerevan and a statue remember him.



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Inauguration of the National Library of Armenia
(November 7, 1922)


The biggest repository of Armenian literature in the world is the National Library of Armenia, founded in 1921, but officially inaugurated on November 7, 1922.

The beginning of its history is linked to the foundation of the library of the Boys Gymnasium of Yerevan, in 1832. (“Gymnasium” was the name of Russian schools that emphasized strong academic learning, similar to U.S. preparatory high schools.) During the first independence of Armenia, this library, with a collection of 18,000 volumes, became the main state library after a decree was passed by the Council of Ministers of the Republic. The first director of the library was Stepan Kanayan, between 1919 and 1921. His efforts were instrumental to collect and buy the libraries of various Armenian organizations and schools in Tiflis, Baku, Akhaltskha, and Kars, and transfer them to Yerevan.Library

Various private and public collections were assembled and became the basis for what was known, during the Soviet period, as the Yerevan Public Library. Alexander Miasnikian, chairman of the Soviet of Popular Commissars (Council of Ministers) from 1921-1925, was instrumental in its foundation and initial growth. After his death in an airplane accident in 1925, the library was named after him and maintained that name until 1990 when it became the National Library of Armenia. Since 1999, July 4 is celebrated as day of the National Library of Armenia.

The library has four buildings. The oldest is the main building designed by architect Alexander Tamanian (1868-1936), who designed the master plan of Yerevan, and finished in 1939.

The number of daily visitors to the library is about 900. An annual average of 1.5 million pieces is delivered to library users. The library collection encompassed more than 6.3 million units as of January 1, 2014, including books, journals, newspapers, maps, posters, dissertations, musical notes, postcards, stamps, calendars, ex libris, banknotes, audiovisual and electronic supports (CDs, DVDs), etcetera. The library has the first printed book in Armenian, Urpatakirk (Venice, 1512); the first newspaper in Armenian, Azdarar (Madras, 1794); and the first map printed in Armenian, Համատարած աշխարհացոյց (Worldwide Map; Amsterdam, 1695). Its current director is Tigran Zargaryan.

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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee [ANEC])


Armistice of Mudros
(October 30, 1918)


The defeat of the Central Powers in World War I triggered the capitulation of the Ottoman Empire, which was forced to conclude the Armistice of Mudros on October 30, 1918, to end the hostilities with the Allies in the Middle Eastern theater. The armistice was signed by Ottoman Navy Minister Rauf Bey and British Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe on board the British ship Agamemnon in Mudros, a harbor on the Greek island of Lemnos.

As part of several conditions, the Ottomans surrendered their remaining garrisons outside Anatolia and granted the Allies the right to occupy forts controlling the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. Any Ottoman territory could be also occupied by the Allies in case of a threat to security. The Ottoman army was demobilized.

Armenia had proclaimed its independence on May 28, 1918, but according to the Treaty of Batum (June 4), its borders had been reduced to an area surrounding Yerevan, Alexandropol, and lake Sevan of approximately 12,000 square kilometers. Armenians anxiously waited for the end of the war, hoping that the Allies would fulfill their promises.


Several clauses of the armistice referred to Armenians:


IV. All Allied prisoners of war and Armenian interned persons and prisoners to be collected in Constantinople and handed over unconditionally to the Allies.


XI. Immediate withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Northwest Persia to the rear of the pre-war frontier has already been ordered and will be carried out. Part of Trans-Caucasia has already been ordered to be evacuated by Turkish troops; the remainder is to be evacuated if required by the Allies after they have studied the situation there.


XV. Allied Control Officers to be placed on all railways, including such portions of the Trans-Caucasian Railways as are now under Turkish control, which must be placed at the free and complete disposal of the Allied authorities, due consideration being given to the needs of the population. This clause to include Allied occupation of Batoum. Turkey will raise no objection to the occupation of Baku by the Allies.


XVI. Surrender of all garrisons in Hedjaz, Assir, Yemen, Syria, and Mesopotamia to the nearest Allied Commander; and the withdrawal of troops from Cilicia, except those necessary to maintain order, as will be determined under Clause V.


XXIV. In case of disorder in the six Armenian vilayets, the Allies reserve to themselves the right to occupy any part of them.


Calthorpe had dictated the conditions of the armistice on behalf of the Allies without consultation with the other members of the Entente. Those conditions were discussed during the Peace Conference of Versailles, opened on January 18, 1919.  At the end of January, the Allied Supreme Council approved a resolution to separate Armenia, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Mesopotamia from the Ottoman Empire.


However, in the future the Allies did not take any serious measure to execute the clauses of the armistice, which would have favored the solution of the Armenian Question. The signature of the Treaty of Sevres in August 1920 was the legal follow-up to the armistice, but it was never ratified due to the Turkish victory in the so-called “war of independence.”



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Birth of Anna Ter Avetikian
[pronounced Der-Avedikian]
(October 23, 1908)



Anna Ter-Avetikian

This name is probably unfamiliar to the English reader. Anna Ter Avetikian was the first female architect of Armenia and the designer of some recognizable buildings in Yerevan.

She belonged to a family well-known to older inhabitants of the capital of Armenia. The Ter Avetikians had been instrumental in the construction of many historic buildings, such as the small hall of the Philarmonia of Yerevan, the old building of Yerevan State University, and the first hospital of the city, located on Abovian Street. Their efforts had succeeded in the creation of the first drinking water network of Yerevan.

An inscription on a building designed by Anna Ter-Avetikian

An inscription on a building designed by Anna Ter-Avetikian where Armenian filmakers lived during the Soviet period in central Yerevan.

In 1924 Anna Ter Avetikian entered the department of Architecture of the Technical School of Yerevan State University, which became the grounds for the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute in 1933 (now the State Engineering University of Armenia). She graduated in 1930. In 1926, while still a student, she started working in the studios of two renowned architects, Nikoghayos Buniatian and Alexander Tamanian (the author of the master plan of Yerevan and of many of its most characteristic buildings). Later she went to work in design organizations.

The designs of Ter-Avetikian were used for the construction of about forty buildings in Yerevan (schools, residential buildings, and administrative buildings). These included the building of film makers at the corner of Mashtots Avenue and Koriun, where the legendary coffee shop “Ponchikanots” (the ponchik is a kind of donut) and the Mayakovsky School are located.

She married architect Konstantin Hovhannisian (1911-1984), who also worked in the studios of Buniatian and Tamanian in the 1930s, and together they designed the buildings of the Yerevan Police, the Yerevan Fire Station (on Sakharov Square),  and the “Sasuntsi Tavit” cinema (demolished in the 1980s). Her husband was the head of the excavations of Arin-Berd (1950-1972) and dug out the remnants of the citadel of Erebuni.

Anna Ter Avetikian was a laureate of the Soviet overviews of female architects in 1938 and 1956, and received a diploma from the international exhibition of Paris, “Women in Art and Popular Creation” in 1938. Her design of the building of film makers earned her the first prize in the all-Soviet competition of female architects of 1948. In 1967 she received a congratulatory note from the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian Republic and in 1968 she became an emeritus architect of Armenia.

She also won recognition and honors from the independent Republic of Armenia: the golden medal “Alexander Tamanian” (2002) and the golden medal “Yerevan” of the Yerevan City Hall. In 2012, at the age of 104, she gave an interview to the news agency Mediamax, in which she said:

“I can’t single out any one of the buildings. Is it possible to say which one of your children is your dearest?anna-der-avedikian2

“All my buildings are built with national style. That was not only conditioned by traditions, but by seismic and weather conditions, as well as the characteristics of national psychology.

“All cities change, and that’s natural. There are periods of flourishing and decline. However, people build the city and its environment is created thanks to them. The old city has to be maintained; keeping the link of time educates people and ties them to their history and roots.”

Anna Ter Avetikian passed away at the age of 105. Her passing was announced on January 16, 2013, by the news agency A1+.

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Completion of the first printing of the Armenian Bible

(October 13, 1668)


After more than two and half years of work, the printing of the first edition of the Armenian Bible was finished in Amsterdam (Netherlands) in 1668. The tenacious efforts of Voskan Yerevantsi, a bishop of the Armenian Church, had finally achieved an elusive target that had been pursued for several decades.

The first page of the Gospel of Matthew from the first printed Armenian Bible of 1668.

The first page of the Gospel of Matthew from the first printed Armenian Bible of 1668.

Voskan (1614-1674) was the son of parents from Yerevan, who had been part of the deportation of Armenians from Eastern Armenia to Persia ordered by Shah Abbas I in 1604 and settled in New Julfa (Nor Jugha), the Armenian suburb of Ispahan founded by the Persian ruler.  He studied at the monastery of All Saviors and, against the wishes of his parents, he was consecrated a celibate priest.  After a few years of further study in Holy Etchmiadzin and Yerevan, he returned to New Julfa. Invited to Etchmiadzin by Catholicos Pilipos I Aghbaketsi in 1634, he was appointed abbot of the monastery of St. Sargis in Ushi, where he took classes in Latin, philosophy, geometry, and astronomy from the learned Dominican monk Paulo Piromalli, a Catholic missionary in Armenia, and taught Armenian to him.

In 1655 Catholicos Hakob IV Jughayetsi (1655-1680) sent his secretary, Movses Tzaretsi, to Europe with the aim of establishing a print shop. He did not find support in Italy and went to Amsterdam, where conditions were more favorable for printing, as the Netherlands were outside the sphere of influence of the Catholic Church. He was able to establish a print shop, but his attempt at printing the Armenian Bible ended in failure. Before his death in 1661, he asked his friend, the merchant Avetis from Jugha, to take over the print shop and continue his work. Avetis, at his turn, asked his brother, Voskan Yerevantsi, to come to Amsterdam. The latter had already been consecrated as bishop and was commissioned by the Catholicos to continue the task.

Bishop Voskan arrived in the Dutch port in 1664 and took over the direction of the “Holy Etchmiadzin and St. Sargis” print shop. Between 1664 and 1669, he printed 14 Armenian books, including the first printed book by a living Armenian historian, the Book of Histories by Arakel of Tabriz (1669). He and his disciples Karapet Andrianatsi and Ohan Yerevantsi started the printing of the Armenian Bible on March 11, 1666, which would result in a beautifully illustrated edition of 21 x 26 cm. (8.27 x 10.23 inches) and 1464 pages. This achievement would become enough to give Voskan Yerevantsi a place of honor in the history of Armenian printing, following the first printer of Armenian books, Hakob Meghapart.

Voskan moved his print shop to Livorno, Italy, in 1669, and three years later to Marseilles, France. He would print eight more books, including the first mathematical textbook, which was also the first printing in Modern Armenian, entitled Art of Calculus (Արհեստ համարողութեան, 1675). He died on February 4, 1674, before the printing of the textbook was complete. His print shop remained active until 1686 and a total of 40 books were printed.

The original text of the Armenian Bible has had ten editions since 1666 (the last one was printed in Vienna by the Mekhitarist fathers in 1929). Very Rev. Hovhannes Zohrabian’s edition, printed in Venice in 1805, is regarded as the most valuable by Biblical scholars.

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Opening of the Council of Chalcedon
(October 8, 451)


The fourth ecumenical council that convened in Chalcedon became a turning point in the history of the Armenian Church, even though the Armenian Church was not represented at Chalcedon.


The first ecumenical council at Nicea (325) determined that Jesus Christ was God, “consubstantial” with the Father. This meant that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are “of one being” in that the Son is “born” or “begotten” “before all ages” or “eternally of the Father’s own being, from which the Spirit also eternally “proceeds.” The confession of Nicea, recited in every Holy Mass of the Armenian Church, states: “We believe (…) in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, only-begotten, that is of the substance of the Father (…) who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, took body, became man, was born perfectly of the holy Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. By whom he took body, soul and mind and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.”


This was reaffirmed at the first council of Constantinople (381) and the council of Ephesus (431). One of the fathers of the Church, Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) taught that “There is only one nature (physis), since it is the Incarnation, of God the Word,” which was held as orthodoxy.


In 446, an aged monk from Constantinople named Eutyches started teaching a subtle variation of this doctrine. His teachings were considered heretical, but he was rehabilitated in a council marred with scandal, held again at Ephesus (449) and supported by Byzantine emperor Theodosius II (408-450) where he publicly professed that while Christ had two natures before the incarnation, the two natures had merged to form a single nature after the incarnation. Pope Leo I denounced the council as a “synod of robbers” and refused to accept its decisions.


The threat of a schism led the new Byzantine emperor, Marcian (450-457), to hold a new council at Chalcedon (451) from October 8 – November 1, 451, which condemned the work of the council of 449 and professed the doctrine of the incarnation presented in Leo’s Tome, a document prepared by the Pope, which confessed that Christ had two natures, and was not of or from two natures. A special committee appointed by the Council decided unanimously in favor of the orthodoxy of Leo’s Tome, and determined that it was compatible with the teachings of Cyril of Alexandria. The confession of Chalcedon stated: “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess (…) one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.”


The formula on the nature of Christ adopted by the Council of Chalcedon was severely criticized by various Oriental sees. Many local councils rejected that doctrine. Resistance reached the point that Byzantine emperor Zeno I (474-491) issued a document called Henotikon in 482, which considered the doctrinal resolutions of the first three councils (Nicea, Constantinople, and Ephesus), while the Council of Chalcedon and Leo’s Tome were not mentioned at all.


At the time of the Council of Chalcedon, Armenia was in crisis. A few months before, in May 451, the battle of Avarair had been fought, and the Armenian Church was in no position to have its say on the issue. The situation changed after the Treaty of Nvarsak (484), when the situation stabilized with Persian Armenia under the government of Vahan Mamikonian. The Armenian Church adopted the doctrine of the Henotikon, and this position was officially confirmed by the Council of Dvin (506).


The followers of the Council of Chalcedon have frequently accused the Armenian Church of monophysitism, but this is not true: the Armenian Church follows the doctrine of Cyril of Alexandria established at the third ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) that reaffirmed the decisions of the Councils of Nicea and Ephesus.


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Execution of the 26 Baku Commissars
(September 20, 1918)

In the history and the mythology of the October Revolution and the Soviet civil war, the 26 Baku Commissars have played a role similar to the 300 Spartans in the history of ancient Greece. Their death would be immortalized in Soviet times through movies, books, artwork, stamps, and public works, and even cities and towns would be named after some of them.

After the Bolshevik revolution of October/November 1917, a Soviet (council) of workers, villagers, and soldiers was created in Baku. This council came to power from April 13 to July 25, 1918 and created an executive organ, the Council of Popular Commissars, formed by an alliance of Bolsheviks and leftist Socialist Revolutionaries, and presided by a famous Bolshevik revolutionary, the Armenian Stepan Shahumian. It was known as the Commune of Baku.

Isaak Brodsky's The Execution of the Twenty Six Baku Commissars (1925) depicting the Soviet view of the execution

Isaak Brodsky’s The Execution of the Twenty Six Baku Commissars (1925) depicting the Soviet view of the execution.

The Commune faced various problems, from the shortage of food and supplies to the threat posed by the invading Turks. The Red Army units hurriedly organized by the Commune were defeated by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, an Ottoman army unit organized by order of Minister of War Enver Pasha on the basis of the local Tatar (Azerbaijani) population, and retreated to Baku in July 1918.

The military defeat provoked the rise of a coalition of rightist Socialist Revolutionaries, Social Democrats, and Armenian Revolutionary Federation members, which asked help from British forces stationed in Persia to counterbalance the Ottoman advance. The Commune transferred power to the new provisional government formed by the coalition, called the Centro-Caspian Dictatorship, and left Baku for Astrakhan, which was under Bolshevik control. However, the new authorities arrested the members of the Commune under charges of embezzlement and treason.

However, a new attack of the Ottoman forces over Baku prevented the trial of the military tribunal, and, according to Soviet historiography, on 14 September 1918, during the fall of Baku to the Turks, Red Army soldiers broke into their prison and freed the 26 prisoners; they then boarded a ship to Astrakhan, which changed its destination to Krasnovodsk, on the other side of the Caspian Sea. They were promptly arrested by local authorities of the Transcaspian provisional government, also anti-Soviet, on September 17, and three days later executed by a firing squad between the stations of Pereval and Akhcha-Kuyma on the Transcaspian Railway, apparently under British pressure.

Although they have been named as “commissars,” not all of them were officials and not all of them were Bolsheviks. Among the executed men, there were Russians, Jews, Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Greeks, and Latvians.

Along with Shahumian, there were five other Armenians: Baghdasar Avagian, military commander of Baku; Aram Kostandian, deputy commissar for Agriculture; Suren Osipian, chief editor of the newspaper Izvestia of the Baku Commune; Arsen Amirian, chief editor of the newspaper Bakinski rabochi; and Tadeos Amirian, commander of a cavalry unit. Arsen and Tadeos Amirian were brothers, and this explains why the latter, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, had fought on the side of the Commune.

After the establishment of the Soviet regime, the authorities of Azerbaijan exhumed the bodies of the 26 victims and reburied them in Baku, at the square named after them, where a pantheon was built in 1968. The anti-Armenian hysteria in Azerbaijan has reached the point that, in January 2009 the pantheon was demolished, since the activity of the Baku Commune is considered an “Armenian conspiracy,” and the remnants were reburied at the Hovsan cemetery, reportedly “with the participation of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clergy, and the corresponding rituals” (ironically, most of the commissars were atheists). Monuments and streets devoted to the commissars, whether Armenian, Russian, Georgian, or Azerbaijani, have also been demolished or renamed.

Meanwhile, the cities of Stepanakert (in Gharabagh) and Stepanavan (in Lori) continue to carry the name of Stepan Shahumian, whose statue in the proximities of Republic Square, in Yerevan, has been maintained. Amirian Street, an important street originating from the same square, has also kept its name.

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Birth of Movses Silikian

(September 14, 1862)


The battle of Sartarabad, from May 21-28, 1918, symbolized the defining moment in Armenian life. It is quite likely that, following an Armenian defeat, the Turkish armies would have had a free pass to occupy Eastern Armenia and liquidate its population, completing the process of annihilation that had been taken place with Western Armenians from 1915-1916. The victory had a military hero, General Movses Silikian.


General Movses Silikian

Silikian was born on September 14, 1862, in the village of Vartashen, in the province of Nukhi (currently Azerbaijan). He was not an ethnic Armenian, but belonged to the Udi minority (an ethnicity descending from the Caucasian Albanians, with a distinctive Northern Caucasian language), although he was a faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He graduated from the Moscow Military Gymnasium (1882-1884) and the Alexander III Military School.

Silikian entered the military service in 1884 and was assigned to the military region of the Caucasus. After serving as company and battalion commander, he was awarded with the degree of colonel in 1914. He became adjutant to the military commander of Yerevan in 1915, commander of the Eighth Regiment in 1915, and commander of the Army Group of Van in 1916. He participated in the liberation of Mush and Bitlis, and became military commander of Erzerum after the occupation of the city. He was awarded the order of St. George in 1916 and rose to the degree of major general in August 1917.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the retreat of the Russian forces, Silikian was designated commander of the second rifle division of the Armenian army in January 1918, and afterwards, commander of the Army Group of Yerevan. He managed to organize a regular army in a short time, and by order of Aram Manukian, who had taken the leadership of the Province of Yerevan, Silikian led the Armenian troops in Sartarabad, where their victory stopped the advance of the Turkish army towards Yerevan.

After the independence of Armenia, Silikian, promoted to general commandant in 1919, became commander of the front of Nor Bayazid (nowadays Gavar) in the same year and was designated general commander of the front of Kars-Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri) in the fall of 1920.

The veteran soldier was exiled in January 1921 to Riazan after the establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenia. He returned in May 1921 to Armenia and settled in Yerevan. He was exiled once again, this time to Rostov-on-Don, and returned again to Yerevan. He worked at the Alexandropol branch of the Swedish “Baltic” company from 1921-1923, and from 1923-1929 or 1930 at the Armenian branch of the Near East Relief.

Silikian was arrested once again during the Stalinist purges of 1937 (he had been previously arrested in 1927 and 1935), and charged within the frame of the “Tukhachevsky case” (a fabricated case against Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other prominent Soviet military leaders), to which he bore no relation. As many other victims of the purges, he was executed in the gorge of Nork, together with General Kristapor Araratian and other heroes of Sartarabad, on November 22, 1937. He was rehabilitated fifty years later, on November 10, 1987.  A neighborhood in Yerevan has been named after him, as well as a medal of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia.



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Foundation of the Mekhitarist Congregation
(September 8, 1701)



Mekhitar of Sebastia

Since its inception, the educational and cultural activities of the Mekhitarist Congregation had a very important role in Armenian history. After becoming a priest at the age of 20, Mekhitar of Sebastia (1676-1749) decided to find a congregation in order to work collectively to increase the spiritual, moral and intellectual levels of the Armenian people. He was consecrated celibate priest in 1699 and soon converted to Catholicism. However, he did not renege his Armenian ancestry and identity.

On September 8, 1701, on the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, Mekhitar and a group of sympathizers founded the congregation of St. Anthony the Abbot in Constantinople. The congregation initially had twelve members, including four celibate priests. The conflict between the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic communities in the Ottoman capital took a bloody turnaround. Mekhitar and his sympathizers fled the Ottoman persecution and moved to the Peninsula of Morea (Peloponessus), in Greece, which was under the domination of the Republic of Venice, and settled in the fortress of Methon.


The Mekhitarist Monastery on the island of San Lazarro in the Venetian Grotto.

An assembly held in 1705 prepared the draft bylaws of the Congregation, based on the bylaws of the Benedictine Congregation and extracted from the canons of the life of St. Anthony the Abbot. He sent two of his students to Rome with the draft, and letters to Pope Clement XI and the governor of the Propaganda Fide. The assembly of the Propaganda Fide, since the canons of St. Anthony were incomplete, suggested Mekhitar to choose from the canons of St. Basil, St. Augustine, or St. Benedict. The Armenian priest chose the canons of St. Benedict and presented the new draft of bylaws to the Pope on May 12, 1711. The bylaws were approved by Clement XI in 1717, who bestowed the title of Abbot upon Mekhitar.


The library inside the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna, Austria.

Meanwhile, a war started between the Ottoman Empire and Venice in December 1714. Mekhitar and most of the congregation members fled Methon and moved to Venice. However, they needed a cloister and a monastery to carry on their plans. The Venetian Senate had just approved a law that forbade the establishment of any new religious congregation in the city. Nevertheless, the highest body took Mekhitar’s request into consideration and proposed that he find a place outside the city. Mekhitar chose the island of San Lazzaro, which belonged to the order of the Mendicants. On August 26, 1717, the Senate of Venice conceded the island to the congregation with right of permanent residence, and Mekhitar and his followers, a total of sixteen, settled there on September 8, the anniversary of the foundation of the congregation. The renovation work at the church was completed in 1723, and Mekhitar started the construction of a new monastery, which was finished in 1740, including a library and a refectory. Mekhitar passed away on April 27, 1749, and was buried before the main altar of the island.  On his death, he had already achieved the publication of some twenty books, including the first volume of the Haigazian Dictionary, which his disciples would complete twenty years later. After his passing, the Congregation was named after him.

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