Archive for the ‘History’ Category


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


Occupation of the Ottoman Bank
(August 14, 1896)

The occupation of the Ottoman Bank of Constantinople, organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in 1896, was an audacious attempt to attract the attention of the European great powers towards the Armenian Question.


Armen Garo (Karekin Bastermadjian

Europe was the guarantor of article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin (1878), which obligated the Ottoman Empire to carry out reforms to improve the situation of Armenians living in their historical territories. The May 1895 plan presented by the European powers to Sultan Abdul Hamid II was never executed. Instead, Abdul Hamid perpetrated a massacre of its Armenian subjects with an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 victims in 1895-1896.

The Central Committee of the A.R.F. in Constantinople organized the strike against the bank, which was a joint venture of Ottoman, British, and French capitals, in order to have the reforms executed. The action was also intended to show the sultan that Armenians were not ready to give up on their rights.

The preparations to occupy the bank started in February 1896. The idea had been conceived by 23-year old Papken Siuni (Bedros Parian), who would lead the operation. Hrach (Haig) Tiryakian, 25-years old, was his lieutenant, and Armen Garo (Karekin Bastermadjian), also 23, would take care of maintaining order in the bank and among the staff. Armen Garo wrote in his memoirs: “We transported close to 400 empty bombs during eight days from our secret foundry in Scutari to our workshop of Pera, in the house of Miss Iskouhi. After filling those bombs there, we transported them to various neighborhoods of Constantinople. We were only 10-15 trustworthy comrades to all this, teachers and students, twenty- to twenty-five-year-old young people, including three young ladies.”

After several changes of date, the operation was finally carried on August 14. At noon, a discharge of guns and the thunder of bombs started the occupation. The group of militants included 28 people. The attacking group killed the guards, although four Armenians were also slain and another five were wounded. A very important loss was that of the head of the operation, Papken Siuni, who was wounded and the bombs on his body exploded when he fell.

Armen Garo took the command of the group and the fight started between the occupiers and the Ottoman forces. Meanwhile, a Turkish mob had started to kill innocent Armenians throughout the city. The A.R.F. militants sent a note with their demands to the European embassies: a) 1. To stop the massacre of innocent Armenians; b) To stop the attack against the bank, otherwise the building would be blown; c) To give written guarantees about the reforms to be carried in the Armenian provinces; d) To liberate all Armenian political prisoners.

At 1 a.m., Russian consul Maximov arrived in the bank and proposed to evacuate it, guaranteeing safe passage for Armen Garo and his companions. The young Armenian answered Maximov: “Mr. Ambassador, we didn’t enter here so you take the trouble of saving us from here…” He meant that he had clear demands, which they expected to be accomplished by the diplomatic representatives and the Sultan. Maximov answered back that the massacre and the attack had stopped; the ambassadors promised to do their best to ensure the reforms and he promised to have the jailed Armenians freed. After long negotiations, the revolutionaries agreed to leave the bank, receiving guarantees about their demands.

After 14 hours of occupation, the seventeen surviving revolutionaries came out of the bank at daybreak. To Maximov’s question of why the others were not coming out, Armen Garo answered that there was no one else; the Turks had convinced Maximov that 200 Armenians had occupied the building. The group, still armed, passed through the Turkish troops, led by Maximov, and was taken to the French ship “Gironde.”

The young Armenians were disarmed and taken to Marseilles, where they stayed 17 days in prison. Afterwards, Armen Garo and Hrach were sent to Switzerland, while the French government promised to send the others to New York. The remaining fifteen revolutionaries were sent to America; however, their destination was South America. They were dispatched to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they stayed until November 1896, when they were able to catch a British ship that took them to London.

The takeover of the Ottoman Bank, with its extraordinary circumstances, was widely reported in the international press. However, the act did not have any positive consequence, since the reforms were not implemented and Armenians would continue to be in dire straits under Ottoman rule. Nevertheless, the action reinforced the determination of the Armenian revolutionaries to continue their struggle in order to achieve political and social freedom for their people.


The surviving members of the Ottoman Bank takeover after arriving in Marseilles, France


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

Fall of Ardzevashen
 (August 8, 1992)


The Soviet policy of “divide and rule” created ethnic enclaves (piece of land surrounded by foreign territory) under various pretexts, such as the incorporation in Azerbaijan of the highlands of the historically Armenian region of Karapagh as an autonomous region (the lowlands were directly annexed to that country). It also created exclaves (piece of land politically attached to a larger piece, but surrounded by foreign territory), such as Ardzevashen, part of the Kegharkounik province of Armenia.

The village of Ardzevashen was founded in 1854 with the name of Bashkend by Armenians from Shamshadin, although an inscription on the St. Hovhannes church of the village, dated to 1607, attests to an earlier Armenian presence on the site.

The population of the village was entirely of Armenian origin. It had a surrounding territory of 40 square kilometers (15.5 square miles) and enjoyed a town status in the 1980s, managing four factories. This included a branch of Haykork, the Armenian state carpet company.

In May 1991, during the last months of the Soviet Union, when the conflict for Karapagh had already started, the inhabitants of the village surrendered their weapons to Soviet military units to avert an imminent occupation.

Indeed, Azerbaijan was prone to occupy those portions of Armenian territory that were completely landlocked, and one of them was Ardzevashen. After a four-day resistance headed by the unit 016 of motorized artillery of Vanatsor, Ardzevashen was surrendered to Azerbaijani armed forces on August 8, 1992. According to The New York Times, Azerbaijan announced the “liberation” of the town, destroying enemy tanks and weaponry, and killing 300 Armenian “brigands,” while Armenian reports did not mention any dead, but said that 29 people were “missing without trace.” The bodies of 12 Armenian soldiers were later delivered; one of the Azerbaijani colonels declared: “They fought until the last bullet. They are the pride of your nation.”

The Armenian population was given one hour to evacuate the village. According to the Regional Administration of Kegharkounik, 719 families (around 2,800 people) were displaced after its occupation. A total of 664 families resettled in the towns of Chambarak and nearby villages, and the rest went to other provinces. The migrants were not considered a separate commune, but the government of the Republic decided to create a separate working staff, financed by the national budget. This staff takes care of problems related to documents and workbooks of displaced people, as well as claims of property rights and improvement of living conditions.

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

 Killing of Enver Pasha
(August 4, 1922)


Enver Pasha

The Russian revolution of November 1917 that set the grounds for the Soviet Union was followed by a civil war. Bolshevik troops were sent into Central Asia to establish Soviet power in 1919-1920. A local movement headed by Muslim elements, known as the Basmachi revolt (the Turkic word basmachi originally meant “bandit”), took advantage of the blunders of the Soviet government in Tashkent (the current capital of Uzbekistan) to challenge its authority and set a movement of national liberation.

Enver Pasha, former Ministry of War of the Ottoman Empire and one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, had become a fugitive of justice after his condemnation to death in absentia by the Ottoman court-martial in July 1919. He had first left Constantinople for Berlin in late 1918 and in 1919 had gone to Moscow, where he engaged in pro-Turkish activities among the Bolsheviks. After participating in the Congress of Eastern Peoples of Baku (September 1920), he tried to reenter Anatolia in 1921, but was rejected by Mustafa Kemal.


Hakob Melkumian

Enver decided to return to Moscow and won over the trust of Soviet authorities. Lenin sent him to Bukhara, in Soviet Turkestan, to help suppress the Basmachi Revolt. He arrived on November 8, 1921. Instead of carrying his mission, he made secret contacts with some rebel leaders and defected along with a small number of followers. He aimed at uniting the numerous rebel groups under his own command and taking the offensive against the Bolsheviks. He managed to turn the disorganized rebel forces into a small well-drilled army and establish himself as its supreme commander. However, David Fromkin has written, “he was a vain, strutting man who loved uniforms, medals and titles. For use in stamping official documents, he ordered a golden seal that described him as ‘Commander-in-Chief of all the Armies of Islam, Son-in-Law of the Caliph and Representative of the Prophet.’ Soon he was calling himself Emir of Turkestan, a practice not conducive to good relations with the Emir whose cause he served. At some point in the first half of 1922, the Emir of Bukhara broke off relations with him, depriving him of troops and much-needed financial support. The Emir of Afghanistan also failed to march to his aid.”

Operation Nemesis had succeeded in the liquidation of several of Enver’s colleagues in European capitals. An Armenian group assassinated Ahmed Djemal Pasha on July 25, 1922, in Tiflis under the very sight of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. Ten days later, Enver would find his own Armenian nemesis in Central Asia.

Yakov Melkumov (Hakob Melkumian), born in Shushi (Gharabagh) in 1885, was a decorated career officer who had participated in World War I and after the revolution had entered the Red Army. After fighting in Bielorrusia (Belarus) in 1918, he became a cavalry brigade commander in Turkestan in late 1919, and from 1920-1923 he was involved in the suppression of the Basmachi revolt.

On August 4, 1922 Melkumian’s brigade launched a surprise attack while Enver had allowed his troops to celebrate the Kurban Bayrami holiday, retaining a 30-men guard at his headquarters near the village of Ab-i-Derya, near Dushanbe. Some Turkish sources claimed that Enver and his men charged the approaching troops, and the Turkish leader was killed by machine-gun fire. Melkumian published his memoirs in 1960, where he stated that Enver had managed to escape on horseback and hid for four days in the village of Chaghan. A Red Army officer infiltrated the village in disguise and located his hideout, after which the troops stormed Chaghan, and Melkumian himself killed Enver in the ensuing combat.

After seven decades in Ab-i-Derya, Enver’s remains were taken to Turkey in 1996 and buried at the Monument of Liberty cemetery in Istanbul. Melkumian was decorated with the second order of the Red Army for killing Enver and defeating his forces. The Armenian officer continued his military career until 1937 in Central Asia. He was arrested in June 1937, during the heyday of the Stalinist purges, and charged with participated in the “military-fascist conspiracy.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 5 years of deprivation of civil rights. After the death of Stalin, he was freed in 1954 and rehabilitated. He died in Moscow in 1962.


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


Birth of Ivan Aivazovsky
(July 29, 1817)

Ivan Aivazovsky is considered one of the greatest marine painters in history. Famous Russian story writer Anton Chekhov popularized the winger word “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush,” used for “describing something ineffably lovely.”


Self Portrait, 1874

Aivazovsky was born Hovhannes Aivazian on July 29, 1817, in Feodosia, a port on the Black Sea in Crimea. He received parochial education at the local St. Sargis Armenian Church and was taught drawing by a local architect. He attended the Russian gymnasium of Simferopol from 1830-1833 and then studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts from 1833-1837, graduating with gold medal two years in advance.

The promising painter was sent by the Academy in 1840 to study in Europe. He first traveled to Venice, where his brother Gabriel was a member of the Mekhitarist Congregation (he would leave the congregation and return to the Armenian Apostolic Church in the 1850s). Aivazovsky studied Armenian manuscripts and became familiar with Armenian art. After a four year sojourn in Italy and France, with visits to half a dozen European countries and prolific exhibitions, he returned to Russia in 1844.

American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar1873

American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar, 1873

Upon his return, he was appointed academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts, from where he had graduated seven years before, and appointed the official artist of the Russian Navy. After traveling to the Aegean Sea and Constantinople in 1845, he settled in his hometown, Feodosia. The Academy gave him a title of professor of seascape painting in 1847, while the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences elected him a member in the same year.

He married English governess Julia Graves in 1848 and had four daughters. They separated in 1860 and divorced in 1877 with permission from the Armenian Church, since Graves was a Lutheran.

Aivazovsky would receive many honors throughout his life: first non-French artist to receive the Legion d’Honneur in France (1857), Order of the Medjidie (Ottoman Empire, 1857), honorary member of the Moscow Art Society (1857), Order of the Redeemer (Greece, 1859), Order of St. Vladimir (Russia, 1865), Order of Osmanieh (Ottoman Empire, 1874), member of the Academy of Arts of Florence (Italy, 1876), honorary member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Stuttgart (Germany, 1878), and others. He held fifty-five solo exhibitions over the course of his career in the Russian Empire, Europe, and the United States (New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, 1893), and participated in many collective exhibitions. He was one of the most prolific artists of his time: he created around 6,000 paintings during his almost sixty-year career. The vast majority of his works are seascapes, but he often depicted battle scenes, Armenian themes, and portraiture. He never painted his pictures from nature, but from memory. His artistic memory was legendary, The Ninth Wave (1850, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg) is generally considered his masterpiece.

Aivazovsky visited Russian Armenia for the first time in 1868. The next year, he participated in the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal in Egypt, and became the first artist to paint the Canal. He continued his travels abroad during the next three decades, including a trip to the United States in 1892. In 1880, he opened an art gallery in his Feodosia house, which became the third museum in the Russian Empire, after the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow. Two years later, he remarried to a young Armenian widow, Anna Burnazian. He said that he “became closer to [his] nation” by marrying her. His career across the civil ranks of Russian government reached its highest position in 1896 when, at the age of 79, he was promoted to the rank of full privy councillor.

Aivazovsky was deeply affected by the Hamidian massacres of 1894 and 1896. He painted a number of works on the subject. More symbolically, he threw the medals given to him by the Ottoman Sultan into the sea and told the Turkish consul in Feodosia: “Tell your bloodthirsty master that I’ve thrown away all the medals given to me, here are their ribbons, send it to him and if he wants, he can throw them into the seas painted by me.” He spent his last years in his hometown, to which he contributed many efforts to its improvement.

Aivazovsky passed away on May 2, 1900, in Feodosia and was buried in the courtyard of the St. Sarkis Church. A quote in Classical Armenian from Movses Khorenatsi’s History of Armenia is engraved on his tombstone: “Born as a mortal, left an immortal memory of himself.



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

Assassination of Djemal Pasha
(July 21, 1922)


Djemal Pasha

The Nemesis Operation, approved by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in its 9th World Assembly, held in Yerevan in September-October 1919, had a long list of Turkish leaders responsible for the Armenian Genocide among its targets.

One of them was Ahmed Jemal, minister of Marine of the Ottoman Empire and member of the leading triumvirate of the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihad), together with Talaat, minister of Interior, and Enver, minister of War. Jemal had taken the command of the IV Ottoman Army, based in Syria, and had overseen the execution of the second phase of the genocide, when the survivors of the caravans of deportees were dispatched and killed in the  camps along the Euphrates River. He had also been in charge of the assimilation of Armenian orphans.

Some targets of the operation, such as Talaat and former grand vizier Said Halim, Behaeddin Shakir (leader of the Special Organization) and Jemal Azmi (the “monster of Trebizond”), had been liquidated in Berlin and Rome, under the supervision of the special body created by the A.R.F. (Enver would be killed by a Bolshevik Armenian in August 1922, in Central Asia.) Jemal Pasha was also in Berlin, but had been able to avoid the Armenian avengers.

On July 26, 1922, The New York Times published a dispatch of the Associated Press, with byline Tiflis:

“Djemal Pasha, former Minister of Marine in the Turkish Unionist Government, Chief of Staff of the Afghan Army, has been assassinated here. Two Armenians are charged with the crime.

“Djemal Pasha was accompanied by two aides, who were also shot dead. He was traveling to Kabul from Berlin, where he had made important purchases from [sic] the Afghan Army.”

The Central Committee of the A.R.F. in Georgia still operated, although clandestinely, after Georgia had become a Soviet republic in March 1921. It organized the killing, according to Simon Vratzian:

“At the initiative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Central Committee of Georgia, on July 21, 1922, in Tiflis and in broad daylight, the last surviving member [of the Ittihad triumvirate] and friend and accomplice of the Bolsheviks, Jemal Pasha, was assassinated. The incident had a shocking effect on everyone. The Cheka made innumerable arrests but did not dare to violent measures for fear of retaliations. Dro got permission from Moscow and quickly left for Tiflis, where all the distinguished Dashnaktsakans had been arrested. Dro’s prestige in the eyes of both the Dashnaktsakan comrades and the Bolsheviks was so great that it was possible for him to get the members of the Central Committee and other prisoners out of jail with conditions acceptable to both parties.”

Little is known about the details of the operation. The name of Stepan Dzaghigian (who would later die in Siberia, exiled during the Stalinist purges) has been mentioned as one of the executors, helped by Petros Ter Poghosian and Ardashes Gevorgian. A fourth name, Zareh Melik-Shahnazarian, has also been mentioned as their collaborator in the last years, with the archives still waiting to yield their secrets.



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


Arshag Tchobanian
(July 15, 1872)

An influential literary critic and political activist, Arshag Tchobanian would become a sought-after name in the first half of the twentieth century.


Arshag Tchobanian

He was born in Constantinople on July 15, 1872. He lost his mother when he was a year old. After graduating from the Makruhian School in his neighborhood of Beshigtash (1886), he entered the newly founded Getronagan (Central) School in 1886. He graduated in 1891, when he had already started his literary contributions to the most important newspapers of the time, Arevelk and Hairenik. He published his first two books in 1891 and 1892. He taught at his alma mater in 1892-1893 and, after a year sojourn in France, continued his teaching. In 1895 he published a literary monthly, Dzaghig, but, due to the political repression and the Hamidian massacres of 1895-1896, he decided to leave Constantinople for good. He settled in Paris, where he would live the rest of his life.

Tchobanian became the leading voice of the Armenians in France and a promoter of Armenian literature and the Armenian Cause in Europe, with many publications in various journals and newspapers, and a series of books in French, along with his own wide production in Armenian. Among his books in French, the most important would be the three-volume Roseraie de l’Arménie (Rose Garden of Armenia), dedicated to Armenian medieval poetry, a subject of which he was a respected translator and scholar.

Between 1898 and 1911, he published the literary journal Anahid, which would become an influential name in Armenian literature. He also wrote for many Armenian newspapers throughout the world.

Tchobanian adopted ideological positions closer to the Reorganized Hunchakian Party, created after the division of the Hunchakian Party in 1896. Later, he entered the ranks of the Liberal Party, created after 1908 in Europe by members of the Reorganized Hunchakian Party.

The Armenian writer was an activist of the Armenian Cause during World War I and denounced the genocidal policy of Turkey. He was the editor of the newspaper Veradznunt from 1917-1919 and became a member of the Armenian National Delegation led by Boghos Nubar in February 1919. He was sent to Lebanon and Cilicia in 1920 to negotiate with the French authorities, at a time when Cilicia was still under French mandate, before being abandoned to the forces of Mustafa Kemal.

In October 1921 Tchobanian entered the Democratic Liberal (Ramgavar Azadagan) Party, founded in Constantinople, and was elected first chairman of its Central Board. During the 1920s, along with the party, he adopted a position favorable to cooperation with Soviet Armenia to further its economic and social development, including the settlement of Armenian refugees and orphans. He visited year the United States from coast to coast in 1926-1927. In 1929 he relaunched Anahid, which would last until 1949, with a pause between 1940 and 1946 due to World War II.

Tchobanian would continue his literary and public activities until his death on June 8, 1954, killed by a car when crossing a street in Paris at the age of 82.


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


Mountainous Gharapagh
Becomes Part of Soviet Azerbaijan
(July 5, 1921)

The establishment of the Soviet regime in the Southern Caucasus between April 1920 and April of 1921 included the solution of ethno-territorial conflicts such as that of Mountainous Gharapagh, which had been in dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1918.

Soviet Russia had recognized the mountainous area of Gharapagh as a disputed zone and, in August 1920, after an agreement signed by Soviet Russian and the Republic of Armenia, Russian forces had been temporarily deployed in the region.

On November 30, 1920, one day after the Armenian Bolsheviks had proclaimed Armenia as a Soviet republic (the power was actually transferred on December 2), the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan (the highest executive power of the country at the moment) recognized that Gharapagh, Zangezur, and Nakhichevan, territories formerly pretended by Azerbaijan, were indivisible part of Armenia. GharabaghMap

The National Council of Azerbaijan, on the basis of the agreement signed by Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Armenia, proclaimed Mountainous Gharapagh as indivisible part of Armenia by the declaration of June 12, 1921. On the basis of the November 30, 1920 declaration and the agreement signed by the Soviet governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Armenia also made a similar declaration.

The text of the decree approved by the government of Armenia was published in the Armenian and Azerbaijani press (Bakinski rabotchi, organ of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, June 22, 1921), thus confirming legally the union of Mountainous Gharapagh to Armenia. In the context of international law, this was the last legal act regarding Mountainous Gharapagh during the Communist regime.

The fact was totally overlooked by the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party of Russia, which invited to a plenary session on July 4, 1921 in Tbilisi, where the union of Mountainous Gharapagh to Soviet Armenia was confirmed as a fact. However, by suggestion of Moscow and the immediate intervention of Joseph Stalin, the decision of the previous day was revised in the wee hours of July 5 and a new resolution was imposed, which established that Mountainous Gharapagh would be part of Soviet Azerbaijan as an autonomous region. This resolution was an unprecedented legal act in the history of international law, when the party body of a third country (Russia), without any legal grounds or jurisdiction, decided the status of Mountainous Gharapagh after another decision had been agreed before.

The Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia were included in the process of the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December 1922. Despite the resistance of the Armenian population, on a small fraction of the territory of Gharapagh, by decision of the Central Executive Revolutionary Committee of Soviet Azerbaijan, on July 7, 1923, the Autonomous Region (Oblast) of Mountainous (Nagorno) Gharapagh was formed as part of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, without having any common borders with Armenia.

This would not solve, but just freeze the question of Gharapagh for the next six decades and half, until the popular explosion of 1988 and the beginning of the Gharapagh movement.


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


Fall of Hromkla [Hromgla]
(June 28, 1292)

Hromkla means “Roman Castle” (Qal’at al-Rum in Arabic, Rumkale in Turkish ). It was the Armenian name of a fortress built on the right bank of the Euphrates River, on the place of its confluence with the Parzman (Merzumen) Creek, 50 kilometers west of Urfa (Edesa).

A strategic border crossing during Byzantine domination of the area, Hromkla was surrounded by water on three sides and by inaccessible rocks on the remaining, with a four-layer wall.


Hromkla Fortress (Pronounced Hromgla)

Around 1080-1086 the fortress was occupied by the short-lived Armenian princedom of Philartos (Filaret) Varajnuni, and afterwards by the Armenian prince Kogh Vasil. After the death of the latter (1112), the dux Baldwin II of Edessa seized the fortress from his son, also called Vasil, and offered it to his relative, Joscelin I de Courtenay, who would succeed him as Count of Edessa (1119-1131).

The Seljuk invasions had forced to move the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church outside Armenia in the middle of the eleventh century. After various moves, Catholicos Grigor III Pahlavuni (1113-1166) settled in Hromkla in 1149 and two years later bought the fortress from Beatrice, wife of count Joscelin II de Courtenay, who had been imprisoned in 1150 after the fall of Edessa in 1144.

Catholicos Grigor III rebuilt the fortifications of Hromkla and founded two magnificent churches, St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Mary. The church of St. Savior was built at a later time. Hromkla became a cultural center during the tenure of Grigor III’s successor, the famous Catholicos St. Nerses IV Shnorhali (1166-1173). Many old manuscripts were collected and illustrated, and new ones were copied and written. Hromkla was famous for its school of miniatures. Two councils held there in 1178 and 1179, with the participation of almost all Armenian archbishops and bishops, studied and rejected the proposal to join the Greek Orthodox, and recognized the authority of the Catholicosate over all Armenians.

Hromkla was a domain of the Catholicos until the beginning of the thirteenth century, when King Levon I of Cilicia (1198-1219) turned the fortress into part of the court domains.

In May 1292 the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, Melik-al-Ashraf, besieged the fortress. After a heroic resistance of 33 days by the population and the Armenian troops, the superior number of the attackers and the impossibility to obtain outside help forced the defenders to surrender on June 28. The guardians were killed, the fortress was ransacked, and most of the population, including Catholicos Stepanos IV, was taken prisoner. The fall of Hromkla was considered by contemporary historians as a catastrophe. The seat of the Catholicosate was moved to Sis, in Cilicia proper where it would remain until 1920.

The church of St. Mary was turned into a mosque after the sixteenth century, during Ottoman dominion, and the other churches were ruined (the  remains of the Catholicoi Grigor III and Nerses IV were buried at the church of St. Gregory the Illuminator). The bombing by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, in 1839, destroyed Hromkla for good. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, St. Gregory the Illuminator Church was a sanctuary for Armenians and Yezdies.


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


Death of Vazken Shoushanian
(June 2, 1941)


Vazken Shoushanian, a talented young writer of the “School of Paris,” was also one of the orphans of the Armenian Genocide.

He was born in Rodosto (nowadays Tekirdag), a city of Eastern Tracia, on February 9, 1902. His birth name was Onnig. He studied and graduated from the local elementary schools. In September 1915 the Shoushanian family was deported to Asia Minor, from where they continued on the exile routes. Onnig lost his father, mother, brother, and sister on the deportation routes between 1915 and 1917. Meanwhile, he had reached Aleppo in February 1916. The young orphan, deprived of any family support, managed to survive doing various menial work in Aleppo and elsewhere until the end of the war, when he went to Constantinople and then to Rodosto.Shooshanian

In 1919, Shoushanian entered the Agriculture School of Armash, and moved to the Republic of Armenia with the rest of his schoolmates in September 1920. Caught in the whirlwind of the end of the independence and the beginning of the Soviet regime, the students finally left the country and returned to Constantinople in May 1921.

In July 1922, Shoushanian came to the United States, but he was not admitted in Ellis Island due to trachoma and he had to return to Constantinople. Months later, he managed to travel to France. He became a factory worker, and in the meantime, he studied agronomy from 1923-1926 in Valabre, near Marseilles. Meanwhile, he had started to write poetry, prose, and essays in the Armenian press of the Diaspora under the name Vazken Shoushanian, including Hairenik daily and monthly, in Boston. He had also become a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and in his twenties he represented the party at the Socialist International. He would pursue studies of Social Sciences in Paris and graduate in 1930.

From 1931-1932 he was part of the literary group Menk, which published the homonymous journal and gathered, for a short while, the most promising names in Armenian literature in the Diaspora, such as Shahan Shahnour, Zareh Vorpouni, and others.

Shoushanian was already a noted writer when in 1932-1933 he became entangled in the internal struggles of the A.R.F. and was left outside the party. However, as he wrote in a journal entry of 1939, he considered himself a member, “whether I have a party card or not.”

In the last years of his life, Shoushanian remained on the margin of Armenian life. He worked at a French boarding school in Rouen from 1933-1939. The school was closed due to the war in 1940 and Shoushanian made a dangerous trip to bring the students to their homes. After a seven-year absence, he then returned to Paris.

He caught pneumonia in the spring of 1941 and died practically alone, forgotten by almost everyone, in a Paris hospital. He did not have a tomb and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Few of his books were published in his lifetime; some remained scattered in the press, while others were left unpublished. His archives, in the end, went to Armenia, and some of his work started to be published in the 1950s, with publication still continuing until this day. A famous passage in his Journal was a testimony of his love for the Armenian language: “Armenian language, how much I love you! No girl on earth can brag that has received so much warm affection, so much love, so much entreaties from me. The fidelity that I feel towards you is more powerful than this miserable life of ours. I would like to study you until my last moment, your ultimate accents and your ultimate words, your internal music and the road you have traced in history. You are our prayer and our pleasure, Armenian language, I love you.”


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Christianity in Armenia

The origin of the Armenian Church dates back to the Apostolic age. According to the ancient tradition well supported by historical evidence, Christianity was preached in Armenia as early as the second half of the first century by the two disciples of Jesus Christ, namely, St. Thaddeus (John 14:22-24) and St. Bartholomew (John 1:43-51). During the first three centuries Christianity in Armenia was a hidden religion under heavy persecution.

It was at the beginning of the fourth century, 301 AD, that Christianity was officially accepted by the Armenians as the state religion. St. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron Saint of the Armenian Church, and King Thiridates III, the ruler of the time, played a pivotal role in the official Christianization of Armenia. It is a well recognized historical fact that the Armenians were the first nation to formally adhere to Christianity. This conversion was followed in the fourth and fifth centuries by a process of institutionalization and Armenization of Christianity in Armenia.


A Migrating Catholicossate

St. Gregory the Illuminator became the organizer of the Armenian Church hierarchy. From that time, the heads of the Armenian Church have been called Catholicos and still hold the same title. St. Gregory chose as the site of the Catholicosate then the capital city of Vagharshapat, in Armenia. He built the pontifical residence next to the church called "Holy Mother of God" (which in recent times would take on the name of St. Etchmiadzin, meaning the place where the Only-Begotten Son has descended), according to the vision in which he saw the Only-Begotten Son of God coming down from heaven with a golden hammer in his hand to locate the site of the new cathedral to be built in 302.

The continuous upheavals, which characterized the political scenes of Armenia, made the political power move to safer places. The Church center moved as well to different locations together with the political authority.

Thus, in 485, the Catholicosate was transferred to the new capital Dvin. In the 10th century it moved from Dvin to Dzoravank and then to Aghtamar (927), to Arghina (947) and to Ani (992). After the fall of Ani and the Armenian Kingdom of Bagradits in 1045, masses of Armenians migrated to Cilicia. The Catholicosate, together with the people, settled there. It was first established in Thavblour (1062), then in Dzamendav (1072), in Dzovk (1116), in Hromkla (1149), and finally in Sis (1293), the capital of the Cilician Kingdom, where it remained for seven centuries. After the fall of the Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia, in 1375, the Church also assumed the role of national leadership, and the Catholicos was recognized as Ethnarch (Head of Nation). This national responsibility considerably broadened the scope of the Church’s mission.


Two Catholicosates within the Armenian Church

The existence of two Catholicosates within the Armenian Church, namely the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin (the Catholicosate of All Armenians), Etchmiadzin-Armenia, and the Catholicosate of the Graet House of Cilicia, Antelias-Lebanon, is due to historical circumstances. In the 10th century, when Armenia was devastated by Seljuks, many Armenians left their homeland and came to settle in Cilicia where they re-organized their political, ecclesiastical and cultural life. The Catholicosate also took refuge in Cilicia.

In 1375 the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was destroyed. Cilicia became a battleground for hostile Seljuks, Mamluks and other invaders. In the meantime Armenia was having a relatively peaceful time. The deteriorating situation in Cilicia on one hand and the growing cultural and ecclesiastical awakening in Armenia on the other, led the bishops of Armenia to elect a Catholicos in Etchmiadzin. The latter was the original seat of the Catholicosate, but it had ceased to function as Catholicossal See after 485. Thus, in 1441, a new Catholicos was elected in Etchmiadzin in the person of Kirakos Virapetsi. At the same time Krikor Moussapegiants (1439-1446) was the Catholicos of Cilicia. Therefore, since 1441, there have been two Catholicosates in the Armenian Church with equal rights and privileges, and with their respective jurisdictions. The primacy of honor of the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin has always been recognized by the Catholicosate of Cilicia.


The Faith of the Armenian Church by Hratch Tchilingirian

The Faith of the Armenian Church is transmitted through the church’s Holy Tradition, that is, the ongoing life of the church from the time of Christ to our times. The Bible, liturgy and worship, writings of the church fathers, church councils, saints, canons, religious art and rituals organically linked together formulate the Holy Tradition of the Church. This Faith is articulated in the Creed of the Armenian Church, the formal declaration of beliefs, which in turn defines the church’s raison d’etre and sets the parameters of its mission and functioning.

The Armenian Church professes her faith in the context of her worship. Theologically, whatever the church believes, the church prays . As such, the Armenian Church’s worship and liturgy constitute a prime source for teaching and living her faith. Tradition, on the other hand, defines and formulates the "articles of faith" and transmits them from generation to generation.

As articulated in the Creed, the Armenian Church believes in One God, the Father Almighty who is the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. Humanity (male and female) is created in the image and likeness of God, and as such is a special creature. However, because of the Fall of man, sin entered the world.

The Church believes in Jesus Christ, "the only begotten Son of God, who came down from heaven, was incarnate, was born of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit." He became man, suffered and was crucified, and was buried. He rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.

The Armenian Church believes in the Holy Spirit, uncreated and perfect, who proceeds from the Father, and together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and apostles and descended into the Jordan river, witnessing Christ’s Baptism.

The Armenian Church is One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church . She believes in one Baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins. On judgment day, Christ will call all men and women who have repented to eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom, which has no end. Christ overcame the power of death with His own death and gave salvation to all mankind.


Qestions & Answers on Armenian Christianity


Who brought Christianity to Armenia?

Christianity was brought to the kingdom of Armenia by two of Jesus’ Apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew in first century A.D.


When did the Armenian nation become Christian?

Christianity became the national religion in 301 A.D.


Who was responsible for Armenians embracing Christianity?

St. Gregory the Enlightener was imprisoned for years, and upon his release he converted King Tiridates III, by healing the king of an incurable affliction through the power of God. After, the king proclaimed Christianity the official religion of Armenia, making it the first country with a national Christian church, the pair helped spread the religion.


Who were Hripsime and the virgins?

Hripsime was one of a group of nuns who lived in Rome under the direction of their superior, Gayane, around 284-305 A.D. When Roman Emperor Diocletian tried to force the beautiful Hripsime to marry him, the nuns fled to Armenia. There, the Armenian king, Drtad, fell in love with Hripsime’s beauty and decided she should be his wife. But the nun refused to break her vows to God by marrying the king. King Drtad tortured Gayane, trying to get her to permit Hripsime to marry him, but Gayane refused to give in. Eventually King Drtad had Gayane, Hripsime, and the 32 nuns tortured and killed because they chose their faith and devotion to God over the wishes of a king.


What was the Battle of Avarayr?

Avarayr is the site in southeastern Armenia where St. Vartan and 1,036 noblemen fell defending the Christian faith against the Persian Empire.


Why is Mt. Ararat important to Armenians?

Mt. Ararat, now in Turkey, but once part of the ancient Armenian kingdom, is traditionally known as the resting place of Noah’s Ark.


Why was the Armenian alphabet created?

Until the 5th century, Christian worship in Armenia was conducted in Greek or Syriac, since there was no Armenian alphabet, hence no written language. In 404 A.D., St. Mesrob (at that time a monk) completed an alphabet of 36 letters. His objective was to translate the Bible into Armenian, and the golden age of classical Armenian literature began shortly thereafter.


What is Holy Muron?

Holy Muron is oil from extracts of more than 40 different kinds of plants that is blessed by the Catholicos once every seven years.


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