Archive for the ‘the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)’ Category

Death of Varaz Samuelian

(November 7, 1995)

Everyone has seen, in person or in picture, Yervant Kochar’s iconic statue of David of Sassoun in front of the train station of Yerevan. Fewer people are aware that a second, equestrian statue of the hero of the Armenian epic poem stands in front of the courthouse in Fresno, California. 

Its author was Varaz Samuelian, an Armenian American painter, sculptor, and writer. 

He was born Varazdat Samuelian on April 24, 1917, in Yerevan, to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. He graduated from the Yerevan State College of Fine Arts (now named after painter Panos Terlemezian) in 1938. 

Varaz and WIlliam Saroyan

He was enlisted to serve in the Soviet armed forces in 1939. He first participated in the war of Khalkhin Gol (May–September 1939), where a combined Soviet-Mongolian army defeated the Japanese forces that had invaded eastern Mongolia to create a base for future attacks on the Soviet Far East.  

Afterwards, he was sent to the Western front after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. He was taken prisoner by the Germans, but escaped from the POW camp and joined the forces of the Resistance in France. During his time in Paris, Samuelian studied with renowned painters such as Othon Friesz, André Lhote, and Fernand Léger.  

After the war, like many other Armenian former prisoners of war, he was confronted with the risk of returning to the Soviet Union and being sent to Siberia for having fallen prisoner to the Germans. He remained in Europe as a displaced person (DP) and came to the United States in 1946, sponsored by his older brother Dickran. He lived with another brother, Jack, in Burlingame, California, for several years. During that time, he began to paint and started a business as a sign painter.  His business success allowed him to move to Belmont, California, where he lived for many years and married his wife Ann. The couple moved to Fresno, California, to be near her family, in 1957. There, “Varaz” Samuelian, who simply signed Varaz, continued his work in painting, began writing in earnest, and developed a large number of sculptures.   

Varaz’s oeuvre encompassed a wide range of media, including sculpture (bronze, stone), painting (oil, acrylic, watercolor), lithography, pen and ink, and pencil. He created around one thousand works of art during his career. Along with his statue of David of Sassoun, he is also noted for his bronze bust of William Saroyan at the entrance of the Fresno Convention Center. He had a decades-long friendship with the famous Armenian American writer. Saroyan wrote a short novel dedicated to the artist entitled “Who is Varaz?” in 1965. Four years after Saroyan’s passing, in 1985, Varaz Samuelian published his memoir Willie and Me.  

He was also the author of other books, including A History of Armenia and My Life: Writing and Drawing (1978).  He held exhibitions in Paris, Nice, Marseilles, Barcelona, Mexico City, and at several New York galleries, as well as locally in Fresno. 

The prolific artist passed away on November 7, 1995, at the age of 78, in Fresno. He willed most of his paintings and sculptures to the Armenian Studies Program of California State University at Fresno. The Varaz Samuelian Cultural Center was inaugurated in the village of Artik, in the province of Shirak (Armenia), on September 1, 2010. The 6,000 square feet building serves as a cultural resource center for the village. The center includes an art gallery, auditorium and a computer room.  

Source: The Armenian Prelacy

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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)




Birth and Death of

Bishop Karekin Servantzdian

(November 17, 1840 – November 17, 1892)


Together with his mentor, Khrimian Hayrig, Bishop Karekin Servantzdian was a remarkable ecclesiastic who worked actively for the well-being of Armenians in their historical territories and even engaged in political activities. At the same time, he became a founder of sorts of Armenian folklore studies.


Servantzdiants was born in Van on November 17, 1840. He studied in his birthplace, and then graduated from the seminary at the monastery of the Holy Cross of Varak, where he was designated as teacher. When Khrimian became the superior of the monastery in 1858, he resumed the publication of his paper Ardzvi Vaspurakan, which had initially been printed in Constantinople (1855-1856), and named young Servantzdiants deputy editor of the weekly from 1860-1862.


Khrimian and the future ecclesiastic toured the Armenian provinces in 1860-1861. Servantzdian depicted the painful situation of the Armenian working class, subject to exploitation by Turks and Kurds. The Ottoman authorities took him under surveillance. He also collected samples of folkloric texts and sayings. His initiative contributed to the opening of schools in various places. In 1862 he became principal and teacher of the seminary attached to the monastery of Surp Garabed in Moush, and edited another publication by Khrimian, Ardzvi Darono (1863-1865), a biweekly. In 1866 he published a textbook, New Reader, in Constantinople.


In 1867 Servantzdian was ordained a celibate priest in Karin (Erzerum) and sent to Van as preacher. Soon he became general director of the schools of Karin, and two years later, he was designated deputy abbot of the monastery of Surp Garabed.


While a champion of popular education and culture, Servantzdian did not shy away from engaging in more difficult tasks. In 1872 he participated in the foundation of the clandestine political group “Union and Salvation,” created in Van. He was designated vicar of the diocese of Van in 1879. Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian sent him to tour the Armenian provinces in 1879-1880 and prepare exhaustive reports about the situation of the population. At the same time, he also recorded many samples of oral literature and described rites, customs, and beliefs.


By then, Servantzdian was actively publishing his findings. His book of 1874, Գրոց ու բրոց (Krots oo prots, loosely “From Written and Oral Sources”), consecrated his name as the discoverer of the Armenian national epic David of Sassoon. The young priest recorded for the first time an account of the epic, which has been regarded as one of the best among 150 recorded published and unpublished accounts. He published another book of written texts, From Old and New, in the same year. New books appeared in the next decade: Manna (1876), where he included folkloric material and the description of the neighborhoods and historical monuments of Van; Toros Aghpar (1879), where he spoke about the economic situation of the country, and the Armenian emigration; and With Taste and Smell (1884), which included a description of Armenian places, historical monuments, and weather, and also literary sketches of various figures of the past and popular tales.


In 1881 Servantzdian participated in the organization of another patriotic secret organization, “The Black Cross,” and by order of the government had to leave Van. He became vicar of the diocese of Bitlis and then took the same position in Kharpert. He traveled to Echmiadzin in 1885 and was ordained bishop the next year. Then he was designated primate of Trebizonda and then of Daron, at the same time becoming abbot of Surp Garabed.


Servantzdian’s patriotic activities and stance triggered the displeasure of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Consequently, Patriarch Haroutioun Vehabedian (1885-1888) fired him from his positions in Daron and had him sent back to Constantinople. Under strict surveillance, he worked as preacher at the Holy Trinity Church of the district of Pera, teacher at the Getronagan School, and chairman of the Religious Council. His contributions to the fields of ethnology and archaeology earned him an honorary membership in the Imperial Academy of Archaeology of St. Petersburg (Russia).

After a long illness, Bishop Karekin Servantzdian passed away on the day of his fifty-second birthday, November 17, 1892. His legacy became a stepping stone for the development of Armenian ethnology and folklore studies in the twentieth century.


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)



Birth of Count Mikhail Loris-Melikov

(November 2, 1824)


Among many Armenian soldiers who served the Russian Empire, the name of Mikhail Loris-Melikov was also relevant for his political labor.


His actual name was Mikayel Loris-Melikian. He was the scion of an ancient noble family from Lori, which owned the province in the Middle Ages. They later entered the aristocratic society of Georgia, and the princely family of the Loris-Melikovs was approved in 1832 as part of the Russian nobility.


Mikhail Loris-Melikov was born on November 2, 1824, in Tiflis (Georgia), and was educated in St. Petersburg, first at the Lazarian Institute of Oriental Languages and afterwards at the Guards’ Cadet Institute. In 1843 he joined a hussar regiment and was sent to the Caucasus in 1847. He would spend some thirty years there and make a career both as a distinguished cavalry officer and an able administrator, working to ensure a transition from military to civil administration. He was governor of the region of Terek (nowadays the northeastern Caucasus) from 1863-1875.

Loris-Melikov, who reached the rank of cavalry general in 1875, commanded an army corps on the Ottoman frontier in Asia Minor during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. He took the fortress of Ardahan and was rebuffed by Ottoman general Ahmed Muhtar Pasha at Zevin, but he subsequently carried a conclusive victory over his opponent at Alaja, took the impregnable fortress of Kars by storm, and laid siege to Erzerum. His distinguished military service in the war earned him the title of Count, and he was awarded the Order of Saint George of the second degree for his service in Alaja in October 1877.


In 1878 Loris-Melikov was transferred to the region of the Lower Volga as temporary governor-general to combat an outbreak of the plague. His effectiveness at the work earned him another transfer, this time to the provinces to Central Russia to combat the terrorist activities of nihilists and anarchists.


He was successful in his task, and he was appointed chief of the Supreme Administrative Commission created in St. Petersburg after an assassination attempt against Czar Alexander II in February 1880. He showed his preference for the use of ordinary legal methods rather than exception extralegal measures, believing that the best policy was to strike at the root of the evil. He recommended a scheme of administrative and economic reforms to the Russian emperor with the aim of alleviating the causes of social discontent. Alexander II, who was not convinced of the efficacy of police repression, dissolved the Supreme Commission in August 1880 and appointed Count Loris-Melikov Interior Minister with exceptional powers in November.


The scheme of reforms was never carried out. On March 13, 1881, the very day that the emperor signed a decree creating several commissions to prepare reforms in various branches of government, he was the victim of a conspiracy by nihilist terrorists. His son and successor Alexander III adopted an anti-reformist policy and started to undo the reforms promulgated by his father. This led Loris-Melikov to resign in May and retire from active life. He wrote several historical and political works, living in Germany and then in Nice (France) until his death on December 24, 1888. His remnants were moved to Tiflis and buried in the courtyard of the Armenian monastery of Tiflis. 


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Birth of Anton Kochinian

(October 25, 1913)


Anton Kochinian

Anton Kochinian


Anton Kochinian was a remarkable, yet underrated figure in the history of Soviet Armenia during the 1950-1970s, despite being in top leadership positions for most of that period.

He was born in the village of Shahali (now Vahagni), in the district of Lori, on October 25, 1913, in the family of an agriculturist. He studied in the local school, then entered the youth organization of the Communist Party (1928) and studied in the school of the organization until 1931. He went to Tiflis to study at the Armenian pedagogical technical school in 1932, but left after a year and he was sent to Yerevan to study at the agricultural school of the youth organization (1933-1935).

After working on the editorial boards of local newspapers from Tavush and Vayots dzor (1935-1937), Kochinian rapidly rose in the party ranks. First he was secretary of the regional committee of the district of Azizbekov (Siunik) from 1937-1939, and from 1939-1940 secretary of personnel and then first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth Organization. In 1940 he was elected member of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party, and in 1941-1943 he led regional committees in Yerevan and Kotayk.

After spending two years in Moscow as an auditor at the higher school for party organizers, in 1946 he was elected third secretary of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party, and in 1947 secretary of personnel.

In November 1952 Kochinian was promoted to the post of president of the Council of Ministers. He would occupy this position of prime minister for almost fourteen years, during the tenures of Grigori Arutyunov (1937-1953), Suren Tovmasian (1953-1960), and Yakob Zarobian (1960-1966) as the party’s first secretaries. Kochinian was selected by the Moscow leadership to replace Zarobian in February 1966 after the latter failed to contain the demonstrations of April 1965 on the fiftieth anniversary of the genocide.

During his more than two decades both as prime minister and first secretary of the party, Kochinian recorded a series of important achievements. The economic progress of Armenia was backed by an important program of industrialization. This included the construction of chemical factories in Alaverdi and Kirovakan (nowadays Vanadzor), the industrial complexes of Hrazdan and Charentsavan, and factories in Sevan and Dilijan, complemented by railways that ensured transportation of raw materials and production. The “Yeraz” truck factory (1964) in Yerevan and big electronic factories in the city of Abovian were added in this period. Thermoelectric centrals were built in Yerevan, Kirovakan, and Hrazdan, as well as the hydroelectric central of Tatev and the cascade of Vorotan. The construction of the 48 kilometers-long Arpa-Sevan tunnel, which would bring the waters of the Arpa River to Sevan Lake, started in 1963. Kochinian’s active participation was instrumental in the decision to build the nuclear central of Metzamor, started in 1969, which would lead Armenia to energy self-sufficiency. Several thousand hectares of orchards were planted, along the construction of the canal of Aparan and the reservoir of Garni. The Yerevan-Sevan highway and the Kapan-Goris route were also built.

Besides a network of sanatoria, pioneer camps, and tourism areas throughout the republic, the sports complex of Tzaghkadzor, which would be used to train the Soviet winter sports teams, was built in the 1960s, and some important public works in Yerevan started in the early 1970s, such as enlargement of the Zvartnots airport (1973), the Hrazdan stadium (1971), and the Rossiya movie theater (1970). The first steps to build the subway network were taken in 1972.

Kochinian was also instrumental in the inauguration of the genocide memorial of Tzitzernakaberd (1967), the monument of Sardarabad (1968), and the Erebuni museum (1968). The latter coincided with the celebration of the 2750th anniversary of the foundation of Yerevan with great fanfare. He also raised the issue of Karabagh in 1966.

During Kochinian’s tenure as first secretary, Soviet Armenia earned three of the five all-Soviet decorations it had throughout its history for reaching high marks in economic activity (1968, 1970, and 1972). Kochinian himself was twice decorated with the order of Lenin.

In November 1974 he was replaced by Karen Demirjian under pretexts of “serious flaws in leadership” and practically left unemployed. He passed away on December 1, 1990. On the centennial of Kochinian’s birth, two busts were inaugurated in Yerevan and in his birthplace in Vahagni (Lori).


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)



(October 24, 1929)

Sos Sargsyan

Sos Sargsyan became one of the most renowned Armenian actors in the second half of the twentieth century.


He was born in Stepanavan, in the Lori region of Armenia, on October 24, 1929. He debuted on the stage in 1947 as David Copperfield in a homonymous play based on Charles Dickens’ novel. He moved to Yerevan in 1948 and started performing at the Theater of the Young Spectator. Meanwhile, he entered the Yerevan Fine Arts and Theatre Institute, from where he graduated in 1954. Upon graduation, at the age of twenty-five, he entered the Gabriel Sundukian Drama Theatre, the premier theatrical ensemble of the country, where he worked for the next thirty-seven years.


Sargsyan was one of those actors who did not need to make recourse to external emphasis and emotions in order to reflect his feelings. During his lengthy career, he performed roles in many plays both by Armenian and non-Armenian authors. Roles like Ben Alexander (William Saroyan’s My Heart is in the Mountains), Don Quixote (Mikhail Bulgakov’s homonymous play), Iago (William Shakespeare’s Othello), or King Lear (Shakespeare’s homonymous play), among others, cemented his fame.


He played in over forty films, including unforgettable roles in Armenian classic movies like Guys from the Army Band (1961), Triangle (1967, Armenian SSR State Prize in 1975), We Are Our Mountains (1969), Khatabala (1971), Nahapet (1977), Dzori Miro (1981), Gikor (1982), and others. His cinematographic participations included various Russian films, most particularly Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972). He was the narrator of the documentary Matenadaran (1988, Armenian SSR State Prize).


In 1992 he established the Hamazkayin Theater, which he headed until the end of his life. Sargsyan continued directing and playing, both in theater and cinema. Simultaneously, he was the dean of the Yerevan Institute of Theater and Cinema from 1997-2005, and served as a member of its board of directors from 2006 until his death. He published several novels, memoirs, and collections of essays between 1991 and 2013.


His lengthy career of more than sixty years earned him many distinctions. He was named Popular Artist of Armenia in 1972 and of the Soviet Union in 1986). He was also awarded the Mesrop Mashtots medal of the Republic of Armenia (1996), the St. Sahak-St. Mesrop medal of the Armenian Church (2000), and the Mekhitar Gosh medal of the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh (2001). He was named honorary citizen of Yerevan in 2000 and earned the title of Professor in 2003.


Sos Sargsyan was also active in the political field. He was elected deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from 1989-1991, and in October 1991 he was nominated by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation as candidate in the first presidential election in independent Armenia. In 2009 he was elected to the National Assembly on the A.R.F. list. On the same year, he was elected as member of the Public Council, an advisory body to the President of Armenia.

The famous actor passed away on September 26, 2013, in Yerevan, and was buried at the Komitas Pantheon.


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Death of Vilmos Lázár

(October 6, 1849)


Vilmos Lázár

Vilmos Lázár


The centuries-old Armenian community of Transylvania—currently part of Romania–had essentially lost the language by the nineteenth century, but had kept a strong sense of identity. They were fully integrated to the life of Hungary, which was part of Austria since 1526. It should not be surprising that several military leaders of the Hungarian-Revolution of 1848-1849 were Armenian. One of them was Vilmos (pronounced Vilmosh) Lázár.


Lázár’s (originally Lazarian) ancestors had moved from Gherla (Armenopolis), the Armenian center of Transylvania, to the region of Banat—currently divided between Romania, Serbia, and Hungary—and received a title of nobility. He was born in the city of Nagybecskerek (nowadays Zrenjanin in Serbia) on October 24, 1815. In 1834 he began his military career in the service of the 34th regiment of infantry in the imperial army. He was commissioned by Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria as a second lieutenant in the Hussar regiment, but in 1844 he retired and returned to his estate farm in Zemplen with his wife, Baroness Mária Revitzky. He worked at the railway company in 1847.


The echo of the French revolution of 1848 spread throughout the continent and found fertile ground in Hungary, where nationalist trends had generated an awakening of patriotism. On March 15, 1848, a revolt against the Habsburg dynasty exploded. Led by Lajos Kossuth, poet Sándor Petöfi, and Mór Jókai, it soon became a war of independence. Emperor Franz-Joseph asked for help to Czar Nicholas I of Russia to fight against the revolution.


Lázár took the revolutionary side and volunteered his services to the Hungarian army. He successively became a lieutenant (October 1848), captain (November), major (January 1849). In April 1849 he was appointed as commander of a brigade stationed in Zemplén. At the end of the month the brigade was reassigned to the legion forming in Upper Hungary. In mid-June Lázár became the commander of division in the legion and participated in the Dukla Pass battle against a Russian army. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July and fought in the last battles of the war of independence. He was promoted to colonel on August 12, but the next day the revolutionary army surrendered to the Austrian-Russian forces. On August 19 Lázár had to do the same with the remainder of his troops (4,600 people).


The promise of an amnesty went unfulfilled. On October 6, 1849, thirteen Hungarian officers were condemned to death by the Austrian forces of occupation in Arad (Transylvania). The date was purposefully selected, because it marked the first anniversary of the failed insurrection of Vienna in 1848 and the supremacy of Austrian power.


Although Lázár only had the rank of colonel, he was considered to have equal status with the generals in the Arad military court martial. He was sentenced to execution by firing squad together with three other colleagues, including General Ernö Kiss, also of Armenian origin. Nine others were hanged.


Vilmos Lázár’s remnants were uncovered in 1913 at the cemetery of the fortress of Arad. His body was then laid to rest in the crypt with a monument that honors him as one of the 13 Martyrs of Arad. Four streets in Budapest and other cities are named after him.


Since 1997, on each October 6, the Armenian community of Hungary organizes a tribute to Vilmos Lázár and Ernö Kiss at the square that remembers the martyrs of Arad in the city of Veszprém.


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Death of Enver Pasha

(August 4, 1922)


Anyone who is aware of the history of the Armenian Genocide has heard the name of Enver Pasha as one of its key executors.

Unlike its mastermind, Talaat, Ismail Enver Pasha was a military officer, born in Constantinople on November 22, 1881. He studied in different military schools and graduated in 1903 with distinction. In 1906 he was sent to the Third Army, stationed in Salonica. He became a member of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) during his service.

When the Young Turk coup broke out in June 1908, Enver became one of its military leaders. He was actively involved in the suppression of the attempt of countercoup of April 1909, which tried to restore Abdul Hamid’s absolute powers. Afterwards, he was sent to Berlin as a military attaché, where he strengthened the ties between German and Ottoman military.

During the Italo-Turkish war of 1911, Enver left Berlin and organized the defense of Libya, where he was appointed governor of Benghazi. He was called back to Constantinople when the First Balkan War started in October 1912 and ascended to the grade of lieutenant colonel. In the same year, the CUP fell from government and was replaced by the Liberal Union party. However, the severe Ottoman defeat in the First Balkan War weakened the government and Enver organized a coup in January 1913. The power returned to the CUP and the triumvirate formed by Enver, Talaat, and Jemal Pasha took charge until the end of World War I. Enver became Minister of War and married into the royal family. When in June 1913 the Second Balkan War broke out, he reversed some of the losses by recapturing Adrianople (nowadays Edirne) from the Bulgarians.

Enver was an architect of the Ottoman-German alliance in World War I, expecting a quick victory that would benefit the empire. He assumed command of the Ottoman forces in the Caucasus. Pursuing his quest for a Pan-Turkic empire stretching to Central Asia, he wanted to force the Russians out and take back Kars and Batum, which had been ceded after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. His offensive in the thick of winter ended with a catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Sarikamish in December 1914 – January 1915 and tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers dying in the subsequent retreat. On his return to Constantinople, Enver blamed his failure on his Armenian soldiers, although in January 1915 an Armenian soldier had carried him through battle lines on his back and saved his life, and a letter written by Enver himself to the Prelate of Konia, Bishop Karekin Khachadourian, praised the Armenians for their bravery and faithfulness in February 1915.

Enver played a major role in the Armenian Genocide. He took the first steps by ordering the Armenian recruits in the Ottoman army to be disarmed and reassigned to labor battalions before their summary executions. These instructions were explained on the basis of accusations of treasonous activity, but the defeat of his army only provided the pretext for escalating a campaign of extermination that was also unleashed against the civilian population with the use of the secret paramilitary Special Organization (Teshkilât-i-Mahsusa) to systematically massacre deported Armenians.

After the collapse of the Russian front in 1918, the Ottoman armies advanced into the Caucasus. The Third Army, commanded by Vehib Pasha, entered the territory of Eastern Armenia, and was halted at the battles of Sardarabad, Bash Aparan, and Gharakilise in May 1918. A new military force called the Army of Islam, commanded by Enver’s half-brother Nuri, advanced towards the territory of today’s Azerbaijan and, in combination with the Tatars (Azerbaijanis), occupied Baku on September 15, organizing a massacre of the local Armenian population.

However, the Ottoman Empire was faced with defeat. Enver was dismissed from his ministerial position in October 1918, and a month later he fled into exile together with other CUP members. Tried in absentia by a postwar courts-martial for crimes of “plunging the country into war without a legitimate reason, forced deportation of Armenians, and leaving the country without permission,” he was condemned to death in July 1919.

Enver first went to Germany, and shuttled back and forth between Berlin and Moscow trying to build a German-Soviet alliance. He went to Baku in September 1920 and took part in the Congress of Eastern Peoples. In July 1921 he tried to return to Turkey, but Mustafa Kemal did not want him among his forces, as he explicitly rejected Enver’s Pan-Turkic ideas. He traveled to Moscow where he managed to win the trust of the Soviet authorities. In November 1921 he was sent by Lenin to Bukhara, in Turkestan, to help suppress a revolt against the local Bolshevik regime. Instead, along with a small number of followers, he defected to the rebels and united their different groups under his own command to fight against the Red Army.

On August 4, 1922, a cavalry brigade of the Red Army under the command of Hakob Melkumian (known in Russian sources as Yakov Melkumov) launched a surprise attack over Enver’s headquarters near the village of Ab-i-Derya. The attack ended with Enver’s death. There are different versions. According to Melkumov’s memoirs, Enver managed to escape on horseback and hid for several days in the village of Chaghan. After the hideout was located, the Soviet troops stormed the village and Enver was killed by Melkumov himself in the ensuing combat.

Enver’s body was buried near Ab-i-Derya. As it happened with Talaat in 1943, the remains of this executioner of the Armenian people were brought to Turkey in 1996 and reburied at the Monument of Liberty cemetery in Shishli, Istanbul.


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

Birth of Levon Orbeli

(June 25, 1882) 

 Levon Orbeli

Levon (also known as Leon) Orbeli was the middle brother in a family of scientists and an important physiologist, mostly active in Russia, who made important contributions to this discipline.

Orbeli was born in Darachichak (nowadays Tzaghkadzor), in Armenia, on June 25, 1882. He was the brother of archaeologist Ruben Orbeli (1880-1943) and orientalist Hovsep (Iosif) Orbeli (1887-1961). The family descended from the princely Orbelian family, which ruled over the region of Siunik between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The future scientist graduated from the Russian gymnasium in Tiflis in 1899 and continued his studies at the Imperial Military-Medical Academy of St. Petersburg. He was still a second-course student, when he started working in the laboratory of famous physiologist Ivan Pavlov in 1901, the same year when Pavlov developed the concept of conditioned reflex. Orbeli’s life and scientific career would be closely connected with Pavlov’s work for the next thirty-five years.

He graduated from the Military Medical Academy in 1904 and became an intern at the Naval Hospital in the Russian capital. He joined Pavlov as his assistant in the Department of Physiology at the Institute for Experimental Medicine from 1907 to 1920. He was sent abroad to do research from 1909-11, working in Germany, England, and Italy.

Afterwards, Orbeli occupied many top positions in the Russian scientific world. He was head of the laboratory of physiology at the P. F. Lesgaft Scientific Institute in Leningrad (the new name for St. Petersburg during the Soviet times) from 1918 to 1957. Meantime, he was professor of physiology at the First Leningrad Medical Institute (1920-1931) and at the Military-Medical Academy (1925-1950), which he also directed from 1943 to 1950.

In 1932 he entered the USSR Academy of Sciences as corresponding member and was elected academician in 1935. After Pavlov’s death, Orbeli became Russia’s most prominent scientist. He developed a new scientific discipline, evolutionary physiology, consistently applying the principles of Darwinism. He devoted particular attention to the application of the principles of evolution to the study of all the nervous subsystems in animals and man. He promoted the study of human physiology, especially vital activity under unusual and extreme conditions. His more than 200 works on experimental and theoretical science included 130 journal articles.

Levon Orbeli was director of the Institute of Physiology of the Academy (1936-1950) and of the Institute of Evolutionary Physiology of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences (1939-1950), where he was elected academician in 1944. He served as vice-president of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1942-1946), where he founded and headed the Institute of Evolutionary Physiology in 1956. He was an academician of the Armenian Academy of Sciences in 1943 (his brother Hovsep was the founder) and had an important legacy in the development of physiology in Armenia. The Institute of Physiology of the Academy of Sciences carries his name.

He received many honors for his extraordinary scientific work. He was member of many foreign societies and earned the State Prize of the USSR (1941) and two important prizes of the Soviet Academy of Sciences In 1937 and 1946. He was bestowed with many decorations, including the title of Hero of Socialist Labor in 1945.

In the last years of Stalin’s life, sciences became the target of state repression. At a joint session of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1950, the official doctrine of “Pavlovism” was promulgated and many prominent physiologists, including Orbeli, were denigrated and blamed for being non-Marxists, reactionaries, and having Western sympathies. Like many others who were victim of these political games, Orbeli would be rehabilitated after the death of Stalin in 1953.

He passed away on December 9, 1958, in Leningrad, where he was buried. A museum in the town of Tzaghkadzor, in Armenia, inaugurated in 1982, on the centennial of Levon Orbeli’s birth, is dedicated to the three Orbeli brothers.

 Museum of the Orbeli brothers


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Death of Ara Sarkissian

(June 13, 1969)


Ara Sarkissian is considered the founder of Soviet Armenian sculpture.

He was born in the suburb of Makrikeuy, near Constantinople, on April 7, 1902. He studied at the local Dadian School, and after 1914, when his family moved to the neighborhood of Pera, in the city, he attended the Essayan School. After working menial jobs during the war to make some money, he studied at the local Art School from 1919-1921 and then he moved to Rome to continue studies there, but after half year he entered the Vienna School of Masters (1921-1924). In both schools he already showed progress in sculpture, and the impact of World War I and the Armenian Genocide leaned him towards tragic subjects.

Still a student, in 1921-1922 he collaborated in Rome, Vienna, and Berlin in the logistics of the Operation Nemesis, at a time when the liquidations of former Ottoman Prime Minister Said Halim pasha and genocidaires Behaeddin Shakir and Jemal Azmi were being planned. Sarkissian appears as A.S. in the Armenian original of Arshavir Shiragian’s memoirs (1965), although his mention has been eliminated in the English translation.

In 1924 Sarkissian was granted Soviet citizenship in Vienna and the next year he settled in Yerevan, where he would live the rest of his life. In 1926 he organized the Soviet Armenian chapter of the Association of Painters of Revolutionary Russia and was elected its president. Six years later he became the founding president of the Painters Union of Armenia until 1937. In 1945 he became the founding director of the Institute of Art of Yerevan (now the Art Academy of Yerevan) until 1959, and later he was head of chair and director of the atelier until his death.

In the 1920s and 1930s Sarkissian’s busts of Armenian writers and intellectuals were characterized by their expressiveness. During World War II, he sculpted busts of Armenian soldiers and various patriotic compositions. One of his best works, the statue of Bolshevik revolutionary Sergei Kirov, was installed in Kirovakan (formerly Gharakilise) in 1942, but after the fall of the Soviet regime and the renaming of Kirovakan into Vanadzor, it was retired in 1992. During his life he participated in many exhibitions in Yerevan, Tbilisi, and Moscow.

In 1949 he was elected corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Arts and became a full member in 1958. In 1963 he earned the title of People’s Artist of the USSR.

Sarkissian’s most recognizable works are the statues of Hovhannes Tumanian and Alexander Spendiarian in front of the Yerevan Opera House (1957), which he co-authored with Ghughas Chubarian, and the statues of Mesrob Mashdots and Sahak Bartev in the courtyard of the main building of Yerevan State University.

Ara Sarkissian’s participation in the Operation Nemesis and his involvement with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation had remained unknown in Soviet Armenia for obvious political reasons. However, in the last years it has been disclosed that his dismissal from the post of director of the Institute of Art in 1959 was due to the fact that he had a brother in Greece who was an A.R.F. leader and whom he met that year in Brussels. It is suspected that his sudden death on June 13, 1969, two days after being discharged from the hospital after a surgery for a broken foot, was linked to the previous discovery that the sculptor had been involved in the Operation Nemesis four decades before.

Ara Sarkissian was posthumously awarded the USSR State Prize (1971). The two-floor house that he shared with painter Hakob Kojoyan became a house-museum dedicated to both artists in 1973.


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Death of Parsegh Ganachian
(May 24, 1967)


The best known of Gomidas Vartabed’s “five disciples” and an accomplished composer and choirmaster himself, Parsegh Ganachian is also known as the author of the arrangement for the Armenian national anthem “Mer Hayrenik.”

He was born in Rodosto (Oriental Thrace, today in Turkey) on April 17, 1885. He was the son of a shoemaker, and at the age of three, his family moved to Constantinople, where he received his primary education at the elementary school of Gedikpasha. During the massacres of 1896, the Ganachians moved to Varna, in Bulgaria, where the young Parsegh continued his studies at the local Armenian school and studied music theory, violin, and conducting with violinist Nathan Bey Amirkhanian. The family moved again in 1905, this time to Bucharest (Romania), where Ganachian continued his studies of violin and he also took upon piano studies with composer Georges Bouyouk.

After the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution in 1908, Ganachian returned to Constantinople, where he founded the first Armenian orchestra, “Knar.” His encounter with Gomidas in December 1910 and the concert of the 300-strong “Kusan” choir in early 1911 were crucial for his career. He entered Gomidas choir. The great musician selected eighteen members of the choir as his students, and the number gradually diminished to five, of which one of them was Ganachian.

The future composer was drafted by the Ottoman army in World War I and played in the military orchestra until he was exiled to Diarbekir, where he fell gravely ill. He was sent to Aleppo, and he was there when the armistice was signed in November 1918. Along with other surviving intellectuals, Ganachian gathered young people and organized concerts to the benefit of the exiles, creating a wave of enthusiasm in the audiences. At that time, he composed the “Volunteer March” (Կամաւորական քայլերգ/ Gamavoragan kaylerk), better known as “Harach, Nahadag” by the first words of its lyrics, written by poet Kevork Garvarentz. He later went to Cilicia, where he also gave concerts, and then returned to Constantinople.

In the Ottoman capital, the Gomidas students organized a group and presented concerts, created a Gomidas Fund and published Gomidas’ works in three songbooks. They also organized choirs and dealt with the education of the new generation. Ganachian composed his well known “Lullaby” (Օրոր/Oror) for soloist and choir.

The Gomidas’ students were sent to Paris to continue their musical education. Going to the French capital in 1921, Ganachian followed the courses of famous composer René Lenormand (1846-1932). Between 1922 and 1932 he toured Aleppo, Egypt, and Cyprus, forming choirs and giving choral concerts. From 1926-1930 he also taught music at the Melkonian Educational Institute. In 1932 he settled in Beirut, teaching at the College Armenien or Jemaran (later the Neshan Palandjian College). In 1933 he organized and directed the choir “Kusan,” which achieved great success in both Armenian and Lebanese circles from 1933-1946. The choir also had presentations in other Lebanese and Syrian cities, as well as in Egypt. It continued its activities until 1961.

Ganachian maintained and promoted the musical principles enunciated by Gomidas, deeply entrenched in national roots. He composed 25 choral songs and orchestral fragments, as well as around 20 songs for children. He also arranged Armenian and Arabic folk songs. Among his most important compositions are the opera “The Monk,” with Levon Shant’s play The Ancient Gods as its libretto, and the cantata “Nanor,” which depicts the pilgrimage to the monastery of St. Garabed in Moush. He also produced arrangements for the Armenian anthem, as well as the Lebanese and Syrian national anthems (1936).

Ganachian lost his sight in 1945, but his choir continued its performances. His works were partly published in Beirut and Yerevan. Among other awards, he was awarded the National Order of the Cedar (1957) by the Lebanese government for his achievements in the cultural life of Lebanon.

The composer passed away on May 24, 1967, in Beirut. The Armenian cultural association Hamazkayin established an arts institute carrying his name in Lebanon. A school also bears Ganachian’s name in Yerevan.

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