WATERTOWN, Mass. – The Armenian Weekly hosted a virtual celebration in honor of the 102nd anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia on Facebook Live on May 28, 2020. In partnership with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region, the event celebrated the heroes, martyrs and intellectuals who established the First Republic of Armenia, thereby saving the existence of an Armenian nation state for generations to follow.
Weekly editor Pauline Getzoyan served as emcee; speakers included ARF Archives curator Mourad Manoukian, Columbia University lecturer Khatchig Mouradian, PhD, ARF Eastern Region Central Committee chairman George Aghjayan and Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) executive director Aram Balian.
Highlighting the importance of May 28, the First Republic of Armenia and the role that the region played in shaping the diaspora during the First Republic, the speakers covered the full gambit of the herculean efforts of the ARF, which led to the independence and establishment of the First Republic.
The event featured a film with an overview of the ARF’s establishment of the First Republic, focusing on the statesmen who had the daunting task of building the first Armenian Republic including Armen Garo, Arshavir Shiragian, Roupen Darpinian, Arshag Fetvadjian, General Dro who led the battle at Bash Abaran, Generals Peroomian and Silikian at Sardarabad and General Njdeh at Gharakilise.
Viewers also toured the ARF archives, housed in the Hairenik building in Watertown, MA, which include a repository of over 150,000 documents chronicling the political and diplomatic activities of the First Republic which is the history of the Armenian people.
The event culminated with a film spotlighting Vahan Cardashian, one of the most prominent advocates of the Armenian cause. Cardashian created and guided the work of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia, which existed from 1918 through 1927.
The ACIA is the precursor to the Armenian National Committee of America that continues the work of Cardashian today, including the lobbying efforts led by the ANCA and culminating in the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots organization in the country.
The ANCA’s work is accomplished through a network of offices and volunteers throughout the United States. Whether in the halls of Congress, in training the next generation of activists, in meetings with representatives, at protests and events commemorating the Armenian Genocide, the first Republic of Armenia or the pogroms in Baku and Sumgait, the ANCA continues Cardashian’s legacy.
The May 28 celebration depicted the story and power behind the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia – people. The event celebrated the dedicated activists who were the leadership and backbone of the establishment of the First Republic then and the activists now who continue to fight for truth, justice and Hai Tahd.
“Today, we proudly celebrate the 102nd Anniversary of the First Republic with awe and admiration of the courage, strength and wisdom of those who made the existence of an Armenian republic possible,” said ARF Eastern Region Central Committee chairman George Aghjayan. “Today, we continue to work, with humility, in support of the Armenian nation – the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Artsakh, and with the indomitable dream of a free, independent and united Armenia.”
Each year on May 28, the ARF NJ Dro Gomideh, along with the sister organizations, organizes a flag raising ceremony at Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, NJ to mark the anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia. As a result of the restrictions in place due to the coronavirus crisis, the Gomideh was unable to organize a community-wide event this year.
Determined to mark the anniversary and establishment of the First Republic and the heroic battles of Sardarabad, Bash Abaran and Gharakilise on May 28, 2020 despite the pandemic, Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishyan offered a blessing of the Armenian flag followed by a flag raising ceremony. Several Homenetmen Scouts participated while Tvene Baronian from the NJ Hamazkayin beautifully sang Mer Hairenik. The event was not open to the community. All participants practiced social distancing and wore masks when possible. As the lyrics of Sardarabad say “…the zealous will find a way.”
The online celebratory program organized by the New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh began with Mer Hairenik and opening remarks by Arousiag Markarian, chairperson of the New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh. Markarian shared her thoughts on the importance of May 28 and reminded viewers that the victorious counter-offensive in Bash Abaran, the heroic resistance in Gharakilise and the miraculous triumph at Sardarabad stopped the advancement of Turkish troops, saved the remaining Armenians from systematic slaughter and led to the independence of the democratic Republic of Armenia.
The program continued with the youth highlighting the importance of the date and Armenia’s independence for them, Anahit Indzhigulyan’s rendition of Sardarabad, Homenetmen NY chairperson Karekin Shamlian’s remarks and Mher Janian’s recitation of Commander Movses Silikyan’s Call to Arms. The program concluded with Bedros Hovhannesian singing Mayis 28, Khatchig Hagopian’s impressions and a message from our youth in Armenian. Following the virtual commemoration, there was a livestream of patriotic Armenian songs with DJ Harout Khatchadourian.
This first-ever virtual commemoration of May 28 in New York included the participation of the New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh, AYF Moush and Hyortik chapters and Homenetmen NY, representatives of which comprised the planning committee. By bringing together dozens of participants, the unity and determination of the New York Armenian community was on full display. I am beyond proud of the local AYF/ARF/Homenetmen chapters in NY for their hard work and dedication,” said Manhattan Moush AYF Chapter chair and planning committee member Chantelle Nasri. “The tireless efforts (amid this pandemic) have shown just how relentless we are as a community, globally. The commitment my fellow ungers have for continuing to strengthen and unite our diaspora is truly contagious. I am grateful to have worked alongside such passionate leaders and look forward to an even larger celebration in 2021.”
The Providence Kristapor ARF commemorated the 102nd anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia via a Facebook Live broadcast at noon on May 28, narrated by Hrag Arakelian. This was the first time the Gomideh prepared a virtual event, and with the help of Megasaur Media it was a success. The nearly one-and-a-half-hour video, which can be viewed from the Facebook page of the Armenian Cultural Association of America – Rhode Island (ACAA-RI) and via YouTube, features a magnificent concert that celebrated the centennial anniversary of the First Republic in 2018. Held at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Providence and conducted by Maestro Konstantin Petrossian, the concert included a symphony orchestra and the Armenian Chorales of Rhode Island and Greater Worcester, along with guest performers The Bostonian Vocal Quartet, Babin Boghosian and Sarkis Yepremian.
The online event also featured inspirational and celebratory messages from representatives of the Providence ARF (Paulie Haroian), ARS Ani and Arax chapters (Taline Mkrtschjan), AYF Providence “Varantian” Senior chapter (Nareg Mkrtschjan), AYF Providence “Varantian” Junior chapter (Arpi Donoyan), Providence Homenetmen chapter (Hagop Khatchadourian), and Armenian National Committee of RI (Hrag Arakelian). “We are here today to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia, a republic that would not have happened if not for our brave fedayees who fought back the Ottoman Empire at the battles of Sardarabad, Bash Abaran and Gharakilise, a first Republic that would not have been realized without the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the forefront,” stated Haroian.
Each speaker discussed the continuing missions of their respective organizations including protecting, defending and strengthening the republics of Armenia and Artsakh, serving the needs of the Armenian people around the world, working for genocide education in all schools, and fighting for recognition and justice for the Armenian Genocide. “We continue to stay inspired by those who brought independence to Armenia on May 28, 1918. And you have our word that the Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island will not stop fighting to keep Armenia independent tomorrow,” concluded Arakelian.
The ARF Azadamard Gomideh’s program began with the Armenian flag blessing ceremony by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church. Deacons Manouk Derovakimian and Yervant Bedikian also participated during the service outside the Armenian Community Center building in Dearborn. After the flag blessing, Homenetmen Scouts Chris Chopjian, Armen Chopjian, Harout Achekian and Mono Achekian raised the Armenian flag.
The program opened with remarks by Detroit ARF Azadamard Gomideh chairman Raffi Ourlian, who explained to viewers the significance of the First Republic of Armenia, his hope to see a free, independent and united Armenia and his wishes that this would be the last virtual celebration of May 28. Silva Sagherian of the ARS Tzolig Chapter stated that we were only able to achieve independence by relying on our own forces, fedayees and leadership, and invited every Armenian to be inspired by this victory and head toward a bright future.
Ani Bardakjian from Hamazkayin Detroit congratulated the Armenian nation and ARF Azadamard Gomideh for this historical celebration and explained how Hamazkayin contributes to maintaining the Armenian identity in the diaspora through education, dance and cultural programs for the community. On behalf of Detroit Homenetmen, Hrant Gulian congratulated the ARF Azadamard Gomideh and all participating organizations. Gulian stated that despite circumstances caused by the pandemic, our organizations are committed to the Armenian cause and to keep the communities engaged. Brief remarks were also presented by Pastor Hagop Haroutounian from the Armenian Congregational Church and Monsignor Fr. Andron Atamian from St. Vartan Armenian Catholic Church of Detroit.
The virtual celebration program was enriched with prior year performances by the Detroit Hamazkayin Arax Dance ensemble, including Avarayr (a portrayal of Armenia’s defense of its Christian identity during the fateful battle of Avarayr in 451 AD) and Hye Hye (a celebration of all that is special and unique about Armenia). AYF-YOARF Kopernik Tandourjian Senior chapter chairlady Talar Baghdasarian expressed her pride in assisting the ARF’s mission and work in the diaspora and Armenia. Then, AYF seniors recited a poem from Mikael Nalbandian’s Azadoutyoun (Freedom).
The AYF juniors talked about the battle of Sardarabad during the celebration. ARS Zavarian Armenian school teacher Lena Nazarian provided a historical explanation of the events that led to the declaration of the First Independence. Without the hard-fought battles of Gharakilise, Bash Abaran and Sardarabad, we would not have our homeland today. She also discussed Aram Manoogian’s legacy as the visionary founder of the First Republic of Armenia.
Shant Massoyan beautifully performed Kedashen, Hay Kacher and closed the program with Arunod Trosh Veh Tashnagtsutyan.
Representatives of Chicago’s Armenian community organizations gathered for a live online celebration of the 102nd Anniversary of Armenia’s independence on Sunday, May 30, broadcast from Armenian All Saints Church and Community Center in Glenview, IL.
The event began immediately following church services with the traditional blessing of the flag by Very Rev. Ghevont Pentezian, who also concluded the event with a rousing message and prayer. AYF “Ararat” Chapter Chair Emily Terian and Chicago Homenetmen scout leader Marissa Ovassapian served as the flag bearers for the ceremony. Yervant Alexanian was selected as the godfather for the flag ceremony for his countless contributions to the community over his many years of service. Because of ill health, he was represented by Dro Grigorian, who has supported Alexanian through his long term illness.
Following the blessing of the flag ceremony, as the choir sang “Mer Hairenik,” the flag bearers and Grigorian marched to the church vestibule where the program was held. The program opened with Chicago “Christapor” Gomideh chair Hagop Soulakian who offered opening remarks and thanked community members for their online participation. He was followed by ARS “Zabelle” Chapter chair Lesa Zakarian, Chicago Homenetmen chair Sahak Zakarian, Chicago Hamazkayin representative Thomas Ohanian and the AYF’s Terian, who each offered remarks on behalf of their respective organizations.
Following the messages of the other organizational representatives, Soulakian took to the podium to speak on behalf of the “Christapor” Gomideh. In his comments, he stressed the importance of completing our national mission for a free, united and independent Armenia. He compared the situation faced by Armenians in 1918 to that of today. He noted how Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh are under threat from Turkey and Azerbaijan and how Armenians in the Diaspora are under attack every day from the th
reat of assimilation, which like the coronavirus, lurks unseen and surrounds us each day. He urged all Armenians to be vigilant and renew their efforts to strengthen their communities. “Without strong communities, we cannot have a strong Diaspora,” he stated, “and without a strong Diaspora, we cannot provide support to our brothers and sisters in Armenia and Artsakh.”