National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

reporter.am

National, International, Armenia, and Community News and Opinion

Craig

Kalpakjian:

challenging

reality

See story on page C3 m

The Molokans

add ethnic

color to

Armenia

See story on page 15 m

Armenians build

a new Armenia

in Naples,

Florida

See story on page 4 m

Western U.S. Edition

Number 108

April 4, 2009

the armenian

reporter

Kim: My greatest pride is

my Armenian genes and

my Armenian vor

See story on page 14m

Visit us at the new reporter.am


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009


Number 108

April 4, 2009

Commentary

Armenian Church’s expanding role in the military

In 1997 Catholicos Karekin I

appointed Father Vertanes

Abrahamian as the first chaplain

of the Armenian Army. Since that

time, the program has grown to 30

chaplains, both priests and deacons,

serving Armenia’s armed forces. At

the helm of this critical ministry is

the since elevated Bishop Vertanes

The Armenians of Colorado welcomed

Ronald Altoon and Edward

Avedisian to Louisville on March

24. The group gathered to hear Mr.

Altoon describe his experiences in

Armenia

The Molokans add ethnic color to Armenia

Ivan Makshanov, a Russian Molokan

was born and has always lived

in the village of Lermondova. His

ancestors, exiled from the Saradova

province of Russia have also lived

in this village. “Our homeland was

Russia. We were exiled from there.

Community

Community

If they exiled us here, and we have

lived in Armenia for more than 150

years, then Armenia is our homeland,”

he says. Tatul Hakobyan reports

about the Russian Molokans

living in Armenia.

See story on page 15m

Abrahamian, himself as veteran of

the Karabakh war. This year, His

Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos

of All Armenians, elevated the

chaplaincy program as well, and

has since been granted diocesan

status.

Armenians of Colorado host AUA guests

See story on page 18m

designing a state-of-the-art educational

building for the American

University of Armenia

See story on page 12m

the armenian

reporter

Speculations mount about a

possible Armenia-Turkey deal

Anonymous sources

cited on timing,

substance

Armenia’s foreign

minister to attend

conference

News analysis by Emil

Sanamyan

President Abdullah Gül of Turkey, on right with mustache, is received by

President Serge Sargsian of Armenia at the presidential palace in Yerevan as

protestors invoke Armenian grievances against Turkey, Sept.6, 2008. Photolure.

WASHINGTON – With President

Barack Obama on his way to Turkey

just weeks before Armenian

Genocide commemoration day, and

unprecedented high-level meetings

between Armenia and Turkey, expectations

for progress in relations

between Armenia and Turkey are

once again being fueled.

Armenian officials contacted by

the Armenian Reporter would not

comment on whether an agreement

with Turkey was imminent, but

did confirm that Foreign Minister

Edward Nalbandian will attend

the Istanbul conference, which Mr.

Obama will address.

Writing on April 1, the Wall Street

Journal cited anonymous diplomatic

sources as claiming that Armenia

and Turkey “could soon announce

a deal aimed at reopening their

border and restoring relations” and

that “the timing of the deal is being

choreographed” with Mr. Obama’s

trip, the paper’s Brussels and Istanbul

correspondents reported.

One of the Journal correspondents

contacted by the Reporter

would not reveal if any of the officials

he spoke with were from Armenia.

The outlines of the deal, as described

by these anonymous sources

would include “opening and fixing

borders, restoring diplomatic

relations and setting up commissions

to look at disputes, including

Continued on page 3

House Armenia Caucus co-chairs

request support for Armenia funding

On the road: Hamazkayin N.Y. Theatre Group

celebrates Levon Shant

The Hamazkayin Armenian Educational

and Cultural Society of

New York will be celebrating the

140th anniversary of the birth of

renowned playwright Levon Shant

With his “Letter to President

Obama,” 14-year-old Aram Balian

of Chevy Chase, Md., has won the

second annual Armenian Student

Essay Contest, the Knights of Vartan

“Ani” Lodge has announced.

Community

Knights of Vartan “Ani” Lodge announces winner

of student essay contest

Community

Celebrating Zabel Varadian’s life

by presenting the U.S. premiere of

a dramatic love story, “On the Road”

(“Champoon Vra”).

See story on page 6m

The winning essay urges the president

to follow up on his affirmation

to recognize and to persuade the

Republic of Turkey to recognize the

Armenian Genocide.

See story on page 8m

In 1956, Zabel Shiranian and her

husband Mal Varadian purchased

the Public Street Market in South

Providence, R.I., which they operated

for 40 years until their retirement.

They provided the first employment

for dozens of young men

who grew to be family friends and

successful members of the Rhode

Island Armenian-American community.

See story on page 7m

by Maria Titizian

YEREVAN – House Armenian Caucus

co-chairs Reps. Frank Pallone,

Jr. (D.-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.)

sent a letter requesting support for

funding programs for Armenia to

the leaders of the Appropriations

Subcommittee on State-Foreign

Operations, chairperson Rep. Nita

Lowey and ranking member Kay

Granger.

The letter was signed by 32 other

members of Congress (see chart).

In their letter, Mr. Pallone and

Mr. Kirk ask for tighter restrictions

on Section 907 of the Freedom

Support Act, which limits U.S.

military aid to Azerbaijan as long

as Azerbaijan threatens stability in

the region. The letter reads, “The

Armenian Caucus for years has

supported parity between Armenia

and Azerbaijan, but Azerbaijan’s

continual threats of war with

Armenia, a U.S. ally in the South

Caucasus, threaten stability in the

region. Due to these threats, we are

requesting tighter restrictions on

Section 907 of the Freedom Support

Act.”

The signers asked for $70 million

in economic assistance and $5

million in military assistance to

Armenia. “The people of Armenia

James Langevin

Anna Eshoo

Stephen Lynch

Candice Miller

John Sarbanes

Dennis Cardoza

James McGovern

Rush Holt

Louis Capps

Loretta Sanchez

Anthony Weiner

Gary Peters

Jim Costa

Scott Garrett

Raul Grijalva

Timothy Walz

continue to face the devastating

impact of Turkey and Azerbaijan’s

dual blockades, illegal actions that,

according to World Bank estimates

from several years ago, cost Armenia

roughly $720 million annually.

Compounding the impact of these

blockades is the approximately $680

million loss to Armenia’s economy,

in the form of increased transportation

costs, higher prices, and lost

investment, that resulted from

the recent Russia-Georgia conflict.

During this conflict, Armenia provided

humanitarian, diplomatic

and economic assistance to Georgia,

facilitated the safe transit for

U.S. and international officials, and

helped rebuild damaged Georgian

infrastructure,” the letter states.

They also request $10 million in

aid for Nagorno-Karabakh, urging

a shift in that aid from humanitarian

to developmental programs. Finally,

they asked for an end to any

remaining restrictions on United

States and Nagorno-Karabakh government

official contacts. f

Members of Congress who have signed the

Appropriations letter

Grace Napolitano

Chris Van Hollen

Ed Markey

Eliot Engel

Henry Waxman

Collin Peterson

Howard Berman

Mark Souder

Brad Sherman

Joseph Baca

Barney Frank

Chaka Fattah

Elton Gallegly

Carolyn Maloney

Joseph Crowley

Frank LoBiondo


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

National

Washington briefing

by Emil Sanamyan

Obama begins tour of

Europe and Turkey

President Barack Obama began

a weeklong five-city tour that focuses

on the European allies of the

United States, relations with Russia

and Turkey, and the economic

crisis. The trip is the president’s

first major foray abroad since taking

office.

In London on April 1–2, Mr.

Obama was joined by leaders of

world’s largest economies, including

those of Russia and Turkey, for

the G20 economic summit. Talks

with the Russian president were

followed by a joint statement

pledging a fresh nuclear disarmament

initiative, and cooperation

on missile defense, nonproliferation,

counterterrorism, and talks

with Iran.

The president’s next stop, Strasbourg

(April 3–4), is hosting the

60th anniversary summit of the

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

(NATO), which just expanded

to 28 members after formally

adopting Albania and Croatia.

Another former Yugoslav republic,

Macedonia, has been blocked

from joining due to Greece’s longstanding

objections to that country’s

name.

A spokesperson for the State

Department said on April 1 that

NATO is open to additional members

and “that both Georgia and

Ukraine, should they choose to

become NATO members and meet

NATO’s membership criteria, will

someday become members of the

alliance.”

While U.S. officials refuse to admit

it, rhetorically there has been

markedly less enthusiasm for the

two countries’ membership since

the brief war between Russia and

Georgia last August.

After a stop in Prague for a summit

between the United States

and the European Union on April

5, Mr. Obama will continue to

Ankara (April 5–6) and Istanbul

(April 6–7).

According to a White House

national security affairs spokesperson,

Denis McDonough,

who spoke with Turkish media

on March 28, the Ankara itinerary

includes a visit to the Ataturk

Mausoleum; a meeting with the

Turkish president, followed by

lunch and a joint press conference;

an address to the Turkish

parliament; and a meeting with

the prime minister.

In Istanbul later on April 6, Mr.

Obama will participate in the meeting

of the Alliance of Civilizations

– a United Nations program co-initiated

by Turkey and Spain. The alliance

brings together 78 countries

worldwide, including Azerbaijan,

Iran, and Russia, but not Armenia,

Georgia, or Israel.

And on the final day of the trip,

Mr. Obama will meet with Turkey’s

religious leaders, visit Sultanahmet

Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and

participate in a roundtable with a

group of Turkish students joined

by others in Europe and Middle

East via video conference.

Administration official

promises “energetic

engagement” on

Karabakh

“We must engage energetically on

enduring conflicts in Moldova

and Nagorno-Karabakh,” newly

appointed Assistant Secretary of

State Philip Gordon told members

of the Senate Foreign Affairs

Committee during his March 27

confirmation hearings.

In his prepared testimony,

Mr. Gordon also promised to

“support the negotiations on a

settlement in Cyprus; promote

Turkey’s EU aspirations while

encouraging it to improve relations

with Armenia, Cyprus and

Greece; and vigorously promote

the diversification of European

energy supplies.”

Denies media report

that he claimed it

“will not pass”

by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mark Kirk

(R.-Ill.), co-chair of the congressional

Armenian caucus, says that he

remains hopeful about the progress

of the Armenian Genocide

resolution and was misquoted by

the Turkish media about it.

“My hope is that we get this resolution

to [a vote on] on the floor and

that we adopt it,” Mr. Kirk told the

Armenian Reporter on April 2. But, he

added, “I don’t know when Speaker

[Nancy] Pelosi is going to put this

resolution on the floor. We are all

waiting for the Speaker to tell us.”

Mr. Gordon, the State Department’s

new manager for Europe

and Eurasia, also promised to

“promote democracy, encourage

economic reform, protect national

sovereignty and territorial integrity,

and resolve the enduring conflicts

that cause needless suffering

on a daily basis and – as we saw last

summer in Georgia – risk erupting

violently at any time.”

Possibly reflecting the Obama

administration’s interest in engaging

Russia, and while referring to

“the Russian invasion of Georgia

and unjustifiable recognition of

two breakaway regions,” the testimony

did not as in the past offer

outright support for Georgia’s position

on those regions.

Committee member Sen. Bob

Menendez (D.-N.J.) raised concerns

with Mr. Gordon’s past opposition

Armenian Genocide affirmation

and tilt in favor of Turkey on

the Cyprus conflict.

In his response, Mr. Gordon referred

to the Genocide as “a terrible

tragedy” and used other language

that was also employed by former

President George W. Bush and his

officials when discussing the issue.

He also declined to term Turkish

military presence in Cyprus an occupation.

House Intelligence

Committee holds

Armenia briefing

A key congressional panel that

oversees the U.S. intelligence community

this week held a rare briefing

dedicated to Armenia. According

to a public notice on its website,

the House Select Intelligence Committee

met on March 31 to receive a

closed “Briefing on Armenia,” presumably

given by administration

officials.

“My hope is that [Speaker Pelosi]

puts the resolution on the floor,” he

said. “President [Barack] Obama

said that he is for this resolution

and campaign promises should

matter.”

Together with Reps. Adam

Schiff (D.-Calif.), George

Radanovich (R.-Calif.) and

Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.),

Mr. Kirk is an original co-sponsor

of House Resolution 252 affirming

the U.S. record on the

Armenian Genocide, which is

currently co-sponsored by 85 additional

members of the House

of Representatives.

On April 2, the English version

of Hurriyet daily published

a translated excerpt of an interview

with Rep. Kirk published

the same day in the daily Aksam

in Turkish.

The excerpt quoted Rep. Kirk

as saying, “Speaker of the House

Congressional aides declined to

discuss the briefing, citing government

secrecy, but a source familiar

with the issue told the Armenian

Reporter that the U.S. and Armenian

governments were working

cooperatively on the issue that was

the briefing’s focus.

The committee is chaired by

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D.-Tex.)

and includes as a member Rep.

Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.). Rep.

Schiff and two other committee

members visited Armenia during

a May 2008 trip that included

stops in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan,

and Pakistan.

Turkey’s friends in

Congress write to

Obama, Gül, and

Sargsian

Congressional supporters of U.S.-

Turkey ties who have also opposed

past resolutions affirming the U.S.

record on the Armenian Genocide

have written to Presidents Barack

Obama, Abdullah Gül, and Serge

Sargsian to “support Armenian-

Turkish rapprochement.”

Reps. Robert Wexler (D.-Fla.),

Ike Skelton (D.-Mo.), Alcee Hastings

(D.-Fla.) and John Murtha

(D.-Penn.) were the main signatories

to the Gül-Sargsian letter.

Mr. Wexler co-chairs the congressional

Turkey caucus. In 2007

he was joined by Reps. Skelton,

Hastings, Murtha, and other senior

democratic members in opposing

passage of the Armenian

Genocide resolution, which was

supported by the House Democratic

leadership.

The March 30 letter addressed to

Presidents Gül and Sargsian said

its authors “care deeply about Armenia

and Turkey” and supported

“ongoing efforts . . . to heal open

wounds, mend broken hearts and

create a better future for both nations

and peoples.”

In an April 1 letter to Mr. Obama,

Mr. Wexler was joined by other

Turkey caucus co-chairs and 27

other members to tout Turkey’s

importance and call on the president

to step up U.S.-Turkey cooperation.

Among other issues in the

long agenda, they called on the

Obama “Administration [to] lend

its unequivocal support to Turkey

and its rapprochement efforts with

its neighbor Armenia.”

The letter makes no mention of

Mr. Obama’s pledge to recognize

the Armenian Genocide or the congressional

resolution on the issue

introduced last month. f

Rep. Mark Kirk is waiting for Speaker’s decision on Genocide resolution

Rep. Mark Kirk

(R.-Ill.), co-chair

of the House

Armenian caucus,

says he has been

misquoted by

Turkish media.

President Obama standing between Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and

Russia’s President Medvedev at the G20 summit in London. Photo: White House.

Rep. Robert

Wexler with

Barack Obama

at a pre-election

rally. Last year

Mr. Wexler

predicted U.S.-

Turkey ties would

“blossom” under

Mr. Obama. AP

photo

Philip Gordon. Photo: Brookings.edu

of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi

will not dare pass the bill. She will

not place Obama in a difficult position.

The bill will not pass, don’t

worry.”

When asked about this line, Mr.

Kirk said that it was “quite an addition

to what I said.”

While confirming that he spoke

with Aksam newspaper correspondent

Nagehan Alci, Mr. Kirk said

the quote was inaccurate.

“When my words were translated

from English to Turkish

and then back to English, I did

not recognize them anymore,” Mr.

Kirk said. “The interview made it

sound like I was not a supporter

of the resolution. Not only I am

supporter, but I am a lead Republican

supporter.”

The Armenian Reporter’s request

for Ms. Alci to comment made

shortly before press time has not

yet been answered.

f


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 3

Community

Yale Club

ballroom filled

to capacity, over

200 guests, for

the Armenian

Relief Society

Centennial

Banquet.

Rep. Anna Eshoo speaks at ars centennial banquet

Rep. Eshoo said

she would raise

Armenian Genocide

issue with Obama

on March 30. at a

scheduled meeting

NEW YORK – The Armenian Relief

Society, founded in New York

in 1910, celebrated its 100th anniversary

at New York’s Yale Club

on March 28. Keynote speaker Rep.

Anna Eshoo (D.-Calif.) said “The

time for passing the Genocide resolution

has never been more right,”

according to a report by Armenian

Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian.

“I will be meeting with the president

on Monday [March 30] evening,

and I am going to again raise this issue

[of Armenian Genocide recognition]

with him,” she noted.

Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo, speaker at the ars Centennial Gala Banquet on

March 28, 2009, receives a plaque of appreciation from the ARS Eastern Region,

presented by Angele Manoogian from Florida, chairperson of the Centennial.

Speculations mount about a possible Armenia-

Turkey deal

Continued from page 1

one on the tense history between

the two nations.”

The latter issue – of a commission

– has been one of the more

controversial matters. In 2005, the

Turkish government first proposed

establishing a “commission of

historians” allegedly to study the

genocide. Seeing it as a ploy against

genocide affirmation, President

Robert Kocharian made a counteroffer

suggesting a bilateral commission

to look into all issues.

President Serge Sargsian has

taken a similar position.

Another sticking point has been

Turkey’s preconditions related to

the Karabakh conflict, but those

appear to have been set aside for

the moment.

Long-held suspicions

and mounting

speculations

With Turkish officials saying that a

Congressional resolution about the

Armenian Genocide would undermine

progress in the normalization

of relations between Turkey and

Armenia, many longtime observers

wonder whether the speculations

are just intended to provide

an excuse for President Obama to

go back on his pledge to recognize

the Armenian Genocide.

Already, when asked about the

issue, spokespersons for the White

House have responded repeatedly

that the administration’s “focus is

on how, moving forward, the United

States can help Armenia and

Turkey work together to come to

terms with the past.”

Turkish media has speculated

for months about an imminent

breakthrough in relations between

Armenia and Turkey, and Western

media too have started speculating

on the topic. Much of the fodder

for such speculation has been provided

by officials involved.

Both Armenian and Turkish officials

have said a breakthrough is

close.

Foreign Minister Nalbandian said

last November in Istanbul that Armenia-Turkey

normalization “could

be done in a quick way, because I do

not see any major obstacles.”

According to Turkey’s Sabah

newspaper, senior members of the

Turkish parliament for the ruling

party, visiting Washington last

month, told their congressional

counterparts not to move on the

Armenian Genocide resolution, as

an Armenia-Turkey deal was imminent.

Other officials told the Armenian

Reporter they believe some kind of

a deal is likely, although one key

Armenian official discounted newspaper

reports.

Armenian Relief Society members with 50 or more years of service were honored

with corsages and certificates given by the Eastern Region. Ten out of 12 honorees

are in the photo with Abp. Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate.

End-game, kind of

Ten months ago, when the Armenian

Reporter asked experts if they

expected such a breakthrough,

most were not optimistic.

It was in the editorial pages of the

Wall Street Journal on July 9, 2008,

that President Sargsian first sought

to convey his determination to normalize

relations with Turkey. The

initiative since then seems to have

been boosted by the aftermath of

the war in Georgia – which drew

Russia and Turkey closer together

and the election of Barack Obama

as U.S. president.

President Abdullah Gül made

his unprecedented half-day visit to

Yerevan in September.

And two months ago President

Sargsian and Prime Minister Recep

Tayyip Erdogan met at Davos,

Switzerland, shortly before Mr.

Erdogan’s stormy departure from a

panel on which he appeared with

the Israeli president.

More talks have taken place between

the two countries’ foreign

ministers and other officials.

Expectations for a breakthrough

had been raised before, perhaps

artificially so. But the talks do appear

to be reaching a kind of an

end-game.

Turkish leaders’ overriding concern

seems to be to get President

Obama to continue the previous

administrations’ policies on the

Armenian Genocide issue. The first

crucial test of that will be President

Obama’s comments on the subject

in Turkey and in the anticipated

April 24 commemorative statement.

From the Turkish perspective,

success in getting President Obama

to sidestep the issue should be a

good enough catalyst for a positive

change in Turkey’s policy toward

Armenia. But this is true only

if, as a senior Turkish official told

this newspaper, it is in fact their

intention “to have best relations

with Armenia,” and “good relations”

with Armenians in the diaspora.

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4 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Community

Armenians build a new Armenia in Naples, Florida

When two of them

meet, what else

would you expect

by Paul Chaderjian

NAPLES, Fla. – Florida in the

American lexicon equates to recreation,

retirement, rest, and relaxation.

Among the top dozen destinations

that are known around the

world is a small city of an estimated

22,000 residents on the western

coast of the Sunshine State. This

city, in Collier County, earned its

name thanks to its reputation for

overshadowing the original Bay of

Naples, Italy. The accolades Naples,

Florida, has earned include consistently

being named as one of the

top five places to live in the U.S. Its

ten-mile beach on the Gulf of Mexico

has been named the best beach

in the U.S. The city is also known as

the Golf Capital of the World and

boasts more than 80 championship

golf courses.

Naples is where people who value

serenity, beauty, cleanliness – paradise

- come to vacation or spend

their retirement years. Among

those who have a residence here

are Bill Gates, Donald Trump,

Steven Spielberg, and Armenian-

American philanthropist Gerard

L. Cafesjian, a former executive of

West Law Publishing, who created

the Cafesjian Family Foundation

and owns and operates the Armenian

Reporter.

Like Gerard and Cleo Cafesjian,

who spent decades working

hard, raising a family, succeeding

in business, and realizing their

American Dream in big metropolitan,

concrete jungles, many others

come to Southwest Florida to enjoy

every moment of a vacation or

their retirement years. It’s a place

to enjoy the good life, a wonderfully

temperate climate, nice people,

great shopping, and good food.

More than two hundreds Armenian

families are known to have

residences in Naples and interact

with other Armenians through two

local organizations. The first, established

more than a decade ago,

is the Armenian American Cultural

Society of South West Florida

(aacs). The second organization is

the Armenian Church of Southwest

Florida, whose parish mission in

Naples organizes monthly celebrations

of the Divine Liturgy and

hosts its visiting mission priest, Fr.

Nerses Jebejian.

Mark from Marco

Island

This weekend, the first character in

this story of Southwest Floridians,

84-year-old Mark Nahabedian,

will be among American soldiers

being honored by the French Embassy

with a Chevalier Award for

being part of the forces that liberated

France toward the end of the

Second World War. Mr. Nahabedian

served in the American army in

France from 1944 to 1945.

In 1970, Mark decided to buy a

vacation place in the Naples-Marco

Island area. He and his wife, Helen,

and their three daughters lived in

Morton Grove, outside Chicago, at

the time. Mark operated a flooring

business and owned a carpet-tile

supply company. He would eventually

occupy himself full-time investing

and managing properties.

When the family still lived outside

Chicago, Mark and his family would

vacation in Miami but found the

east coast of Florida too crowded.

Flash forward a few decades, and

Mark has become a central figure

in the local community while his

youngest daughter, Carrie Nahabedian,

is a world-famous chef

who has held executive-chef posts

at the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton

hotels. Carrie now runs her

own restaurant, Naha, in Chicago,

and has garnered a number of

prestigious accolades – including

the 2008 James Beard Foundation

Award for best chef in the Great

Lakes region – as well as rave reviews

from national and international

publications, among them

her hometown’s Chicago Tribune.

While the family had discussed

looking for a vacation home in

Florida, Mark surprised his wife

and daughters one Sunday in 1970

by buying an apartment site unseen.

“Normally, I’m the one who goes

to church, but I stayed home that

Sunday while they went to church

and was looking through the travel

and properties sections of the paper,”

he says. “I saw an ad for a place

in Marco Island, and I said, ‘Gee,

that sounds great.’”

After seeing photos of the apartment,

Mark signed on the dotted

line, and the family took up residence

in their new vacation home

in 1971.

“We spent Christmas and Easter

here, and then I got my brother

down here, and I got my sister

down here, and I got my niece down

here,” he says. “There are about ten

Armenian families that came here

because of me, and then I’ve got

two other cousins that live here. So,

next thing you know, they’re coming

in from all over, most of them

from New England, and two from

the Michigan area.

Enter Maida’s touch

Maida and her husband, John

Domenie, moved to Naples from

New Jersey in 1987, and launched

the aacs in 1998.

Maida grew up in Beirut and left for

Europe in 1963 at the age of 25. At the

time she was employed by an Armenian

who manufactured household

products and asked her to work for

him in Switzerland. Her father had

passed away, so Maida, her brother,

and mother moved to Switzerland

but didn’t like life in Europe.

“I said, ‘Let’s go back to Beirut

and see what we can do about

going to America,” she remembers.

“We waited for two years to

be cleared to come to the United

States, and we finally did. Then my

husband hired me when we came

to Washington, DC, where I had

two cousins.”

John Domenie was working for a

start-up bank called Wells Fargo, and

he interviewed Maida for a position

at the company. Maida says they developed

a very deep friendship and

then decided to get married.

“After my husband took early retirement,

he said, ‘We shouldn’t live

in the New Jersey-New York area

anymore,” says Maida. “I’m asthmatic,

and the cold affects me very

much. So we got into our car, and

we were driving along the coast, because

we wanted to be by the water.”

Maida and John had not heard

about Naples until they were visiting

a cousin in Boca Raton, on the

east coast of Florida.

“We saw this little town that said

Naples on the map,” she remembers.

“It’s a good drive across the

state, so we said, ‘Let’s go and see

it.’ And that was love at first sight.”

After about ten years in Naples,

Maida realized that she and John

were running into other Armenians

now and again.

“My husband said, ‘Why don’t you

look further into this, because there

must be quite a few Armenians if

we are seeing and meeting them so

often,’” says Maida. “Eleven years

Jerry Alajajian. Photos: Arsen Serobian.

Mark Nahabedian.

ago, we came across some other Armenians,

and I was very impressed

by their Armenianness. One person

said, ‘When do you think we’ll have

a club or a church’ That really triggered

my interest, and I sat down

for days and days, went over the

telephone book, found all the ians,

and I wrote maybe 150 letters.”

Maida received 35 prompt responses

from fellow Neapolitan Armenians

who said they would be interested in

an Armenian club. She said the response

was very encouraging, and

the organization she and her husband

started, the aacs, has mushroomed

to about 200 members.

“We have an activity every month,

but the winter months are more

active, because a good percentage

of our members have two homes

– North and here,” says Maida. “So

we do more activities during the

season, the winter months.”

Members of the aacs pay annual

dues, which are then used to host

dinners, invite speakers on cultural

issues and history, and produce a

monthly newsletter that Maida

writes and sends by postal mail.

“We do not have any political or

religious activities,” she says, “because

those are two issues with Armenians

that create controversy.”

Maida says the best part of being

involved in the AACS is the enthusiasm

of members for being involved

in the organization and getting to

socialize with other Armenians.

“You know, Naples is a very generic

society,” she says. “Armenians

have no notion that they could sit

down and have a dinner with another

Armenian. The idea that they

[actually] can, I think, creates the

enthusiasm.”

In the pages of her newsletter,

Hye Times, Maida writes about Armenian

history, literature, and tidbits

she culls from other sources.

“I have a lot of things from the Armenian

Reporter,” she says. “When I

Maida Domenie.

Pamela Torosian.

Fr. Nerses

Jebejian.

see something – for example, your

story about the Mexican Ambassador

in Washington being an Armenian

– I write about it.”

In the current issue of Hye Times,

Maida wrote about poet Daniel

Varoujan and reprinted an essay

about Lent written by 13th-century

catholicos Levon Yervantsi.

The newsletter also keeps members

updated about each other.

“Of course, we have a lot of

deaths,” she says, “because, you see,

our average age is 65-70, and we

have quite a few, sad to say, deaths.

But, in compensation, new members

come in all the time.”

Maida says the aacs doesn’t have

ambitions to become bigger or join

a bigger institution, because Naples

is a small town with limited means.

“We don’t have our own place,”

says Maida, “so we are at the mercy

of clubs and places like that when

we meet. We have to organize the

food, the drinks, the music. We’re

very limited as far as things that we

want to do, but when we do something,

they all love it.”

The annual picnic

In addition to the annual celebration

of Armenian Christmas on

January 6, the AACS hosts an annual

picnic, which this year took

place on March 8 and drew at least

150 members and non-members.

“Usually we do it on Marco Island,”

says Maida. “That’s where Mark

Nahabedian comes into the equation.

He’s the picnic man. He does

it all, and we have another gentleman,

Jim Derderian. He’s from

Massachusetts, and he brings the

kebab, and everybody brings an Armenian

dish. I think we go home

two pounds more than we came in.”

The picnic tradition in Naples-

Marco Island is credited to the

late Gus Barber of Barber Foods,

which began its chicken and beef

business in the 1950s.

“Jim Derderian, who is from Bethune,

Massachusetts, and Gus Barber,

from Cape Elizabeth, Maine,

would have a little picnic at the park,

and there would be about 20 people,”

remembers Mark Nahabedian.

“One day they decided to invite

me, because I knew about half of

them. So from then on, that went

on for about ten years. Then, when

Maida started this organization, a

couple of times we had parties at

the beach. Then we got involved

with Jim and Gus, and that’s how

it worked out.”

Gus Barber passed away last

summer, but Mark says the Naples

community will always remember

him as a great guy, and a very benevolent

guy.

“I introduced him to a friend from

Watertown,” says Mark, “and Gus

donated $100,000 to the Armenian

Tree Project. Two years ago, we

happened to be in Armenia, and I

went into the tree project orchard,

and I was very impressed.”

Mission parish

Ahead of the start of the Lent season,

the local Armenian community

celebrated Poon Paregentan,

the service that takes place the last

Sunday before the start of Lent.

Officiating the service was visiting

parish priest Fr. Nerses Jebejian.

“Up until this time, we had never

had a service on the Sunday before

Lent,” says Pamela Torosian of

the Naples Parish. “So we’re very

happy to have had the service this

year. Afterwards we went to a restaurant

and actually had an Italian

dinner and had a party. We had

about 67 people – which during the

season is a fair number for us.”

Pamela says an average of 60 people

participate in their monthly liturgical

services, which are held at different

churches throughout the year.

“During the season, we have all

the snowbirds come down from the

north,” says Pamela, “and we feel

strongly that it’s important to try

to provide badarak services for them

once a month, when they’re so used

to having it once a week up north.”

Pamela and her late husband

moved to Naples 17 years ago. She

says her husband’s main concern

with living in Naples was that there

was no local Armenian church.

“My husband, along with myself,

and another couple, Sylvia and

Bob Raubolt, started the mission

parish down here in Southwest

Florida,” she says. “It takes about an

Continued on page 5


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 5

Community

Armenians build a new Armenia in Naples, Florida

Continued from page 4

hour and a half to go to the church

services on the east coast, and about

two and a half hours to go north of

here, so we thought it was important

to provide that service for the

people of Southwest Florida.”

Pamela and other members of

the Parish Council hope that in the

next few years the local community

will be able to buy or build its own

Armenian church.

“We have a unique situation down

here with the number of retirees

that we have,” she says. “A lot of our

members have been very active in

their church parishes, so we have a

lot of experience.”

After her husband passed away,

Pamela, who is not Armenian, decided

she wanted to play an active

role in the Parish Council, as she had

done when her husband was alive.

“It was his passion, and I’d always

been very active with the Armenian

church, because it was a very warm

family that was very welcoming

when I married my husband up in

the Greenfield area, up in Wisconsin,”

says Pamela. “When I came

down here, I had that same kind of

reception. So I was very supportive

with his ethnic and religious

background. I feel it’s important to

carry it on, not only because of him,

but also because I have Armenian

stepchildren and Armenian grandchildren.

You have to lead by example,

you know.”

The visiting Der Hayr

Fr. Jebejian is one of several mission

priests who serve communities

under the auspices of the Eastern

Diocese of the Armenian Church.

“I started coming to Naples once

a month around 1999-2000,” says

Fr. Nerses, who resides in Pompano

Beach, on the east coast of Florida.

“I divide my time, mostly weekends,

and I go wherever I have to.”

This former director of the Mission

Parish Program of the Diocese

oversaw 22 mission parishes

at one time. Under his direction,

Armenian priests celebrated the

liturgy across the Eastern U.S. in

communities that did not have a

permanent parish priest. Since his

retirement from that post, he provides

spiritual council to communities

including Naples, Baton Rouge,

Kansas City, and Atlanta.

“Here in Naples, there’s a large

community of Armenians,” he says.

“In the wintertime, there are about

300 families that come from around

the country. In the summertime,

we have 200-225 families.”

Fr. Nerses’ hope for the community

is that the new five-member

Parish Council will secure a permanent

location for the church and

hold weekly services.

“It’s very easy to go to a Catholic

church, a Greek church, an Episcopal

church, do a service, and get out,”

he says. “But in order for something

to survive, it has to have continuity,

and for [community members] to

have continuity they need a place, a

building. They need a residence. They

need a house where they can continue

their tradition, their religious life,

their faith, and their spiritual nourishment

and growth, and in order to

do that, you need a place.”

The Aleppo-native knows firsthand

how a permanent structure

can change the life of an Armenian

community. He has helped communities

in Louisiana, Kansas, and

Georgia acquire locations, raise

funds, and build churches.

“I had been going to Baton Rouge

since 1983, for instance,” he says. “I

used to go once a month. In 2002,

I told them, ‘I’ve been coming here

since 1983, and nothing has been

happening.’ It’s a very small community.

All they have in Louisiana

is something like 40 families. I said

that there’s no sense in me coming

here, if you people are not going to

have something here, a community

center, a church. And I said, ‘Do

something else.’”

Jim Derderian at

the aacs picnic

on March 7, 2009.

Photo: John

Domenie.

A week after Fr. Nerses’ talk with

Louisiana Armenians, he received

a call from the chairman of the local

parish, who told him the community

was ready to take the next

step. Fr. Nerses returned to Baton

Rouge and helped the local Armenians

find a suitable site, a former

piano store and storage facility, do

the bidding, and buy the building,

which soon was consecrated as

an Armenian church (Community,

March 21, 2009).

“In the Louisiana area, we don’t

have families or individuals who

have that kind of money,” Fr. Nerses

says. “The chairman of the Parish

Council gave a large amount

of money, and that excited other

people in the community. It excited

young people, and they gave some

money. One gave a thousand. One

gave three thousand. One gave a

hundred. Two kids came and said,

‘We’ll give you ten dollars,’ and we

built a church over there.”

Fr. Nerses pushed a similar initiative

in Kansas City, where the

community purchased a former

Catholic church and is expecting a

visit from Primate Khajag Barsamian

after the completion of construction

projects.

Before being assigned to multiple

parishes and the Parish Priest

Program, Fr. Nerses worked for

the World Council of Churches and

represented the Armenian Church

at international conferences all

around the world.

“I was ordained a deacon in 1964

and went to St. Nersess Armenian

Seminary in Evanston,” says Fr.

Nerses. “I went to Geneva, Switzerland,

and I studied at the Ecumenical

Institute. Then I worked at the

World Council of Churches, and it

was quite an interesting experience.”

At the World Council of Churches,

Fr. Nerses was assigned to work

on youth affairs, which led to his

assignments as a mission priest

within the Diocese of the Armenian

Church. Now his personal mission

is to see that communities like the

one in Naples find their own corner

of their small cities to build an Armenian

church.


connect:

hobodory@comcast.net

torosp@comcast.net


6 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Community

MY NAME IS

ARMEN

The lingering love notes of

life

by Armen

Bacon

As the weather begins to change

and flowers beg to bloom, it’s that

time of year when I yearn to do a

bit of spring-cleaning in an effort

to un-clutter my life and prepare

for the acquisitions of a new season.

As an aspiring minimalist, I

look forward to this time of year

– a perfect and opportune time to

sort, toss and discard the unnecessary

possessions that sometimes

force me to navigate life carrying

too much baggage. I like to travel

light, so this ritualistic downsizing

of life is a must during this time of

the year.

Paper, in our house, has a tendency

to accumulate and grow exponentially.

Don’t ask me why or

how, it just does. There are stacks

of newspapers, magazines, and

mail in almost every corner of

the house. Reading material is my

security blanket – I thrive on unfinished

sentences, dangling participles,

word salads and anything

that is hand-written, jotted down,

published or unpublished. But today

I am determined to rid myself

of the excess paper. I am systematically

sifting and sorting through

mail, magazines, catalogs and correspondence.

Forgive me for prying, but what

do you do with them I’m referring

to the cards and love notes

that people send you throughout

the year(s), you know, to acknowledge

a birthday, anniversary, job

promotion or maybe the arrival of

a new little one If you are anything

like me, you treasure these as

if they are gold, holding on to them

forever until one day, they fill an

entire room. At my house, cardstock

keepsakes have a tendency

to stack up and multiply, moving

from counter top to desk drawer,

eventually forcing me to find them

a permanent home in a special, undisclosed

hiding place somewhere

in my house. God forbid they

should be thrown in the trash. The

thought of it makes me cringe.

You might be wondering why I

hang on to them After all, they

are simply words on paper. The answer

is simple: over the years, these

personal mementoes have become

an appendage to my heart. Each

serves as a reminder that someone,

somewhere, is holding a good

thought for me somewhere out in

the universe. In this day and age

of anonymity, the intimate nature

of these love notes quite simply,

intoxicates my soul. The union of

three or four handpicked words,

Armenian Reporter columnist Armen D.

Bacon is senior director for communications

and public relations for the Fresno

County Office. Ms. Bacon lives in Fresno,

California, and is a wife, mother, professional

woman, and writer. Since 2004,

her thoughts and reflections about life

have been published in the “Valley Voices”

section of The Fresno Bee as well as

the Armenian Reporter. She also writes,

produces, and hosts a radio series titled

“Live, Laugh, Love” on Fresno’s K-jewel

99.3 radio. She can be reached at armendbacon@aol.com.

i.e., I adore you, Lean on me or I’m

here for you can nourish me on a day

that I wake up hungry. The notes

inscribed on the inside of many of

the cards also chronicle my life’s

journey, only they tell the story

from the vantage point of someone

else – usually a significant other. In

rereading their messages, I am able

to relive a day, a moment or renew

a friendship that in many cases,

has shaped the person whose name

is Armen.

A former boss of mine used to

keep his collection of cherished

notes in the desk drawer at his office

where he could retrieve them at

a moment’s notice. He called them

his justifiable existence. He said that

they gave him purpose, reminded

him why he was getting up in the

morning, putting in 12 hour days

and sacrificing both his health and

sanity. If he was having a bad day,

all he ever had to do was pluck out

one of these notes, read a few lines,

and instantly he would feel better.

My personal collection stems

back more than three decades.

There are engagement and wedding

cards, followed by the baby cards

– you know, the ones with the ducks

and teddy bears, cradles and storks

on the cover. I have two huge stacks

of these, well, actually they have

moved into beautiful memory boxes,

since they also include all of the

birthday invitations and cards my

children received at the time of their

birthdays. I had intended to give

these to them when they turned 18

or 21, but for sentimental reasons, I

still cannot seem to part with them.

Maybe someday. They remind me

of the magical age of innocence,

when life was simple and beautiful.

Is there anything more divine than

a child’s birthday party, the sound

of laughter, frosting smeared across

a smiling face, tissue paper and ribbon

dancing across the floor I seriously

doubt it.

In more recent years, my collection

reveals a different side of life.

It represents fewer special occasions

and instead, marks minute

morsels of time, moments between

friends that to the masses may

easily go unnoticed. This series of

notes, written mostly by the women

I fondly reference as my band of

angels, celebrates a unique sisterhood

and friendship bond that has

been forged in response to life’s trials

and tribulations. The messages

contained in the cards celebrate

courage, resilience and our collective

determination to live life passionately

and with no regrets.

Recently, a dear friend of mine

who is of Irish descent, sent me a

lovely card with the following message:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Armen.

The proud Irish woman in me salutes

the strong Armenian woman

in you. Let us raise a glass of

green beer or fine champagne to

our grandparents – whose sacrifices

and hard work shaped much

of who we are today. Lamb and pilaf

or corned beef and cabbage – it

matters not as long as we remember

and celebrate. Love, Anne.

I rest my case. This stack of

notes stays. I will happily discard

the magazines, newspapers and

catalogs but these cards, each representing

a treasured lifeline, will

find a permanent place in both

my heart and my home. After all,

one must always make room for

love.


Let us know what’s on your mind.

Write to us at

letters@reporter.am

Cast of Levon Shant’s play “Jampoon Vra.”.

On the road: Hamazkayin N.Y.

Theatre Group celebrates Levon Shant

WOODSIDE – The Hamazkayin

Armenian Educational and

Cultural Society of New York will

be celebrating the 140th anniversary

of the birth of renowned playwright

Levon Shant by presenting

the U.S. premiere of a dramatic

love story, “On the Road” (“Jampoon

Vra”). This will be the 41st

annual theatrical presentation by

the Hamazkayin Theatre Group of

New York, under the direction of

Herand Markarian, recipient of

numerous awards, including “Best

Playwright of Diaspora” bestowed

by the Writers’ Union of Armenia.

Poet, novelist, and playwright Levon

Shant is regarded by many as

the greatest Armenian playwright.

Born Levon Seghpossian on April

6, 1869, in Constantinople, he was

orphaned at the age of six. He debuted

as a writer in 1891, adopting

Shant (lightning bolt) as his pen

name. The success of his play “Ancient

Gods” allowed him to move

to Europe and escape the fate of his

colleagues who were killed in the

Armenian Genocide. For years, he

was a teacher and educator, as well

as a public and political figure and

political activist in Armenia and

the Armenian communities in the

diaspora. He served as a member of

the parliament of the first Republic

of Armenia, and was imprisoned

after the Communist takeover of

Armenia. After being freed, he continued

to write plays and became

one of the founders of Hamazkayin,

and the primary founder of Hamazkayin

Djemaran Academy in Beirut,

where he was the school principal

for 20 years until his death in 1951.

A couple in love...the girl is devoted

to the man she loves...the man is

committed to the struggle of the

homeland. How can this conflict be

resolved Shant offers a solution.

Set in 1904 Bolis (Constantinople),

this heart-rending story of love,

devotion, and commitment takes

place before the Armenian Genocide.

Yet it presents a very current

conflict. The presentation features

Toros Tervizian, Sossi Essajanian,

Karnig Nercessian, Zaven

Vartanian, Avo Hajian, Mardig

Boyadjian, Berjouhi Yessaian,

Ani Nercessian, Ani Boyadjian,

and Mr. Markarian.

The N.Y. Hamazkayin Theatre

Group has been home to over 400

members, who during the 41 years

have given their precious time and

talent to preserve the Armenian

cultural arts. Much credit should

be given to Mr. Markarian for introducing

new faces and encouraging

young Armenians to preserve

their heritage. The Hamazkayin

Theatre Group holds the record for

the longest continuously running

Armenian theater group in the

Toros Tervizian

and Sossi

Essajanian star

in Levon Shant’s

play “Jampoon

Vra.”.

United States, the only Armenian

theater group that has performed

off-Broadway, the largest number

of world premiere Armenian plays

in the diaspora, the first theater

group of the Hamazkayin family to

have been invited to participate in

the first Diasporan Theatre Festival

in Yerevan and Vanadzor, Armenia,

as well as the first Armenian theater

group to perform on a cruise

line.

The play will take place at 8:05pm

on Sunday, April 19, 2009, at the

Armenian Center, located at 69-23

47th Avenue, Woodside, N.Y.

connect:

Marriet Gabrelian at (718) 205-2688

(evening), Berjouhi Yessaian at (718)

639-2666, or Sonia Bezdikian at (718)

961-9550 (daytime).


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 7

Community

Norair K. Deirmengian (Norman K. Miller), 94, inventor

PHILADELPHIA – After a

short period of illness, Norair

Karekin Deirmengian, also known

as Norman K. Miller, went to

meet his maker on January 19 after

a brief period of illness. He is

survived by his wife of 59 years,

Virginia, their five children, two

daughters-in-law, one son-in-law

and ten grandchildren. He was a

loving and inspirational husband,

father, grandfather and mentor.

Always smiling, always offering a

helping hand, he touched the lives

of everyone he met.Norair was

born in 1914 in Kasken Maden,

near Bolis, while his mother was

fleeing the Armenian Genocide

along with her two young sons.

His father had been killed prior to

his birth. His mother found refuge

for the family in Romania, where

Norair was placed in an orphanage.

Norair excelled academically and

was sent to Murat Rafael Armenian

College Preparatory School in

Venice, Italy. After graduating in

1935, he emigrated to the United

States where he was reunited with

his family and enrolled at the University

of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Norman was thankful for the

freedoms found in his new country.

Not yet a citizen, in 1941, he

enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was

Celebrating Zabel

Varadian’s life

NORWOOD – Isabelle Shiranian

was born on November 14,

1925, in New York City, to Abraham

and Vartig Shiranian. She

excelled academically at Central

High School and was a member of

the National Honor Society. She

was a proud member of the Providence

Varantian Chapter of the

Armenian Youth Federation and

participated in the Sts. Vartanantz

Church Choir and Ladies Guild

for many years.

To support her family after her

father’s death, Zabel worked for a

jewelry manufacturer during her

high-school years. After graduation,

she became an executive secretary

at U.S. Life Insurance Co.

During World War II, the female

members of the Providence ayf

wrote to the Armenian soldiers

who were in the battlefield. Zabel

pulled out of a hat the name

of Melkon (“Mal”) Varadian, who

was stationed in North Africa with

General Patton’s 7th Army. When

Melkon returned to the States,

they met at an AYF meeting, and

their 61-year journey together began.

Two years after their meeting,

Melkon and Zabel were married,

and shortly afterward, they

started a family. The couple would

be blessed with three children,

Michael (Armenie), Sandra (Megerdich),

and Malcolm (Kristen);

grandchildren Nick, Siran, Antranig,

Armen, Melkon, Sarah, and

Ani; and great-grandchildren Emily,

Nicholas, and Carl. All were to join

the Providence ayf.

In 1956, Mal and Zabel purchased

the Public Street Market in South

Providence, which they operated

for 40 years until their retirement.

Many lifelong relationships developed

with employees. Arthur

(“Jake”) Butler came on board as a

young man, devoting many years

to Zabel and Mal in the operation

of the store. Jake, his wife Sandy,

and their family remain cherished

friends to this day.

The couple hired and mentored

countless family members and

sent to the South Pacific where he

played instrumental roles in the

Battle of Layte and the Guadalcanal

Campaign. During his service,

he showed his inventive talents

by developing a method of cushioning

military tank interiors to

prevent injuries and was issued

a commendation for creating a

method to repair and improvement

the Reisling gun.

He returned to Philadelphia to

start a manufacturing business

with his two brothers. Originally

known as Miller Brothers,

Miller Edge grew to become an

industry leader in safeguarding

for motorized doors, gates and

automated machinery markets.

Under his leadership, Miller

Edge was issued over 100 patents

in the U.S. and abroad. He was

recognized multiple times for his

professional achievements. In

1991, Norman received the Distinguished

Service Award from

the Door & Operator Dealers Association

honoring his personal

achievements. In 1998, Miller

Edge received the International

Door Association Industry Service

Award. In 2007, he received

the International Door Association

Humanitarian Award.

Norman was always thankful

for the freedoms and successes

neighborhood youths. They provided

the first employment for

dozens of young men who grew

to be family friends and successful

members of the Rhode Island

Armenian-American community.

Holding court at the Public Street

Market, Zabel and Mal offered

guidance in the business, athletic,

and personal lives of many. Their

service and generosity benefited

individuals and families, and

made a lasting impression on the

community.

Family was an important part

of Zabel’s life. Having lost her

father at an early age, she gave

constant attention to her mother

and uncle, Sarkis Keri Marderosian,

both of whom lived near the

market. She was very proud and

fond of her many nephews, nieces,

cousins, and other extended family

members, speaking of them

affectionately and often, and was

a loving sister to Dickran (Marie

Rose) and Charlie Shiranian, deceased.

Despite her many illnesses and

surgeries, Zabel kept people happy

with her kind demeanor and

beautiful smile. She took great

joy in the accomplishments of

her children, grandchildren, and

great-grandchildren, relishing

their celebrations and graduations.

She also enjoyed the constant

company of her “grandpuppy,”

Mollie.

She will be remembered for

her wonderful sense of humor.

Zabel laughed heartily when, at

one event, she and Mal were accidentally

left behind in an empty

school parking lot. The family caravan

drove off, everyone thinking

the others had Mal and Zabel with

them!

The Varadian family appreciates

the kind devotion of Zabel’s many

friends and family in the Providence

community who were so

supportive throughout the years.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations

may be made to Sts. Vartanantz

Church Endowment Fund and

ayf Camp Haiastan.


he found in the United States.

He also kept a special place in his

heart for those suffering in his

Armenian homeland. Following

the devastating Armenian earthquake

of 1998, Norman organized

the collection of used copier and

fax machines. The machines were

refurbished at the Miller Edge

warehouse, packed with clothing

for cushioning and sent to Armenia

to help businesses rebuild. In

2004, he donated the funds required

for the construction of a

water treatment plant in the Armenian

Village of Nor Gatashen.

Prior to his donation, the people

of this village had no clean running

water. In 2007, he donated a

classroom to the Armenian Relief

Society Daily School at St. Mary’s

in Toronto, Ontario.

Norman was a lifetime active

member of St. Gregory’s Church

in Philadelphia. He was a member

of Armenian Bowling League, St.

Gregory’s Men’s Club, Knights of

Vartan, Masonic Brothers. He also

was a supporter of anca, ayf, Armenia

Fund, and other organizations

too numerous to note.

Norair Deirmengian (Miller)

was laid to rest on January 24,

2009 at Arlington Cemetery in

Upper Darby, Pa., following funeral

services held at St. Gregory The

On a Watertown billboard, the Torch of Liberty urges the United States to

officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.

“Torch of Liberty” billboard

to urge Genocide recognition

by Rosario Teixeira

Norair K. Deirmengian, 1914–2009.

WATERTOWN – The Armenian

Genocide commemorative

billboard is scheduled to go up on

Watertown’s Arsenal Street April 6.

In the middle of the billboard, the

torch of liberty is urging the United

States to officially recognize the Armenian

Genocide.

The commemorative billboard is

sponsored by Peace of Art, Inc., a

non-profit organization which uses

art as an educational tool to bring

awareness to the universal human

condition, and promote peaceful

solutions to conflict.

Around the same time that the

Armenian Genocide commemorative

billboard will be installed,

President Obama will visit Turkey

as part of his international tour. It

has been speculated that he may

influence the opening of the borders

between Turkey and Armenia.

Everyone has been following

President Obama as he engages in

carrying the torch of liberty and attempts

to open dialogue for peace

and cooperation with all nations.

The Armenia diaspora has been

following President Obama as well,

and waiting for the official recognition

of the Armenian Genocide by

the United States.

“Political compromise is not a solution

to this problem,” said Daniel

Varoujan Hejinian, the founder

of Peace of Art, Inc. He added that

recognition of the Armenian genocide

will contribute to discouraging

future use of genocide as a sociopolitical

solution. “In addition, it

will contribute to the political stabilization

in the region, and it will

improve and normalize relations

between Armenia and Turkey.”

connect: PeaceofArt.org

Illuminator Armenian Apostolic

Church.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations

to: St. Gregory Armenian

Apostolic Church, 8701 Ridge Avenue,

Philadelphia, PA 19128.

Onstage at the

Kennedy Center

Family Theater:

“The Georgetown

Boys”

WASHINGTON – Following the

Armenian Genocide of 1915, thousands

of children were orphaned.

From these, 109 were brought to

Georgetown, Canada, to be trained

as farmers. “Canada’s noble experiment”

has been called the country’s

first humanitarian act on an international

scale, yet the young refugees

were to face culture shock and

discrimination in their adopted

home.

On April 25, the Hamazkayin Armenian

Educational and Cultural

Society New Jersey Chapter–Youth

Theater Group will bring their story

to life in a production organized

by the Armenian Genocide Commemorative

Committee of Greater

Washington.

“The Georgetown Boys,” a musical

by Herand Markarian, will be onstage

at the John F. Kennedy Center

for the Performing Arts Family

Theater, 2700 F St. NW. Washington,

D.C., at 7:30 p.m.

connect:

Elo Tanashian 1-301-740-2751

or Garbis Muradian 1-703-836-0827

(10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)


8 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Community

Aram Balian, 14, wins “Ani” Lodge student essay contest

14-year-old urges

President Obama

to recognize the

Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON – With his

“Letter to President Obama,” 14-

year-old Aram Balian of Chevy

Chase, Md., has won the second

annual Armenian Student Essay

Contest, the Knights of Vartan

“Ani” Lodge has announced. The

winning essay urges the president

to follow up on his affirmation to

recognize and to persuade the Republic

of Turkey to recognize the

Armenian Genocide.

Aram wrote of his support for President

Obama, his personal connection

to the Armenian Genocide though

his elder relatives, well-documented

citations of previous affirmations by

the U.S. govemment of the Arrnenian

Genocide, a description and summary

of recent events, and the relationship

of the Armenian Genocide to other

genocides of the 20m century, including

the Holocaust.

“I was very impressed with the

well-thought-out and articulate

letter that Aram wote, as were the

judges,” said “Ani” Lodge Commander

Ed Ketchoyian. “We were

so impressed with the essay that we

are now working to get the letter to

President Obama before April 24th.”

The essay contest, launched on

December 31, 2008, was open to

students under the age of 19. Mr.

Balian will receive a $500.00 U.S.

Savings Bond.


Let us know what’s on

your mind.

Write to us at

letters@

reporter.am

Knights of Vartan Essay Contest winner writes to President Obama

This open letter by 14-year-old Aram

Balian of Chevy Chase, Md., was the

winning entry in the second annual

Armenian Student Essay Contest

sponsored by the Knights of Vartan

“Ani” Lodge of Washington, D.C.

March 2, 2009

Dear President Obama,

I enjoyed watching your presidential

address to the Congress

when you highlighted the young

student from South Carolina who

had written to you about the need

for repairs at her school. I had never

thought that a President of the

United States would respond to letters

from young students; however,

when you mentioned that letter,

and I saw the student sitting next

to the First Lady, I was inspired to

write to you.

I am writing to ask for your support

in recognizing the systematic

killings and forced deportations

of the Armenians living in the Ottoman

Empire at the turn of the

twentieth century as genocide.

My entire family supported your

election. Your candidacy represented

strong moral values, a willingness

to try to make things right

in our country, and a real hope for

our future. I am extremely proud

of our country and its citizens and

grateful to be lucky enough to be

an American, under the leadership

of President Barack Obama.

Several years ago, my parents

took my brother and me to Armenia

to connect to our Armenian

heritage. The trip was an amazing

opportunity to pray in churches

that were built in the 4th century,

to visit monasteries located in the

mountains, and to view Mount Ararat,

the ancient symbol of Armenia

where Noah’s ark landed, from

our hotel room in Yerevan. I left

Armenia as an American happy and

proud of my Armenian heritage.

During our trip, we said a prayer

at the Armenian Genocide memorial

for the Armenians who were

massacred by the Ottoman Turks

from 1915 to 1922. My great-grandmother,

who died a few years ago,

used to tell me stories of her childhood

escaping from her village

of Dort Yol, Turkey, to avoid the

Genocide. She lost her mother during

the marches to the Middle East.

On the other side of my family, my

mother’s great-grandmother was

forced to march through the desert.

She walked from the city of

Gesaria (Caesarea) in western Turkey

to Aleppo, Syria. The trip took

her three years and along the way

she saw each of her family members

die-one by one. She survived

by eating any lizards and snakes

she caught on the way. The story

is much the same for thousands

of Armenians who were forced to

march through the desert with no

food. In addition to the marching,

many people lost their loved ones

to outright execution.

Although the Armenian Genocide

has been an afterthought to

some presidents in the past, it

has been in the forefront of many

great minds, including Raphael

Lemkin. Lemkin, who coined the

term “genocide,” campaigned for

the ban of mass murder, after seeing

the Armenian Genocide. The

1948 United Nations Convention

on the Prevention and Punishment

of the Crime of Genocide adopted

Lemkin’s term and defined

genocide as

“any of the following acts committed

with intent to destroy, in whole

or in part, a national, ethnical, racial

or religious group, as such: killing

members of the group; causing

serious bodily or mental harm to

members of the group; deliberately

inflicting on the group conditions

of life, calculated to bring about its

physical destruction in whole or in

part; imposing measures intended

to prevent births within the group;

[and] forcibly transferring children

of the group to another group.”

The Armenian Genocide is not an

imagined event; it is a well documented

and photographed historical

event. As you yourself once

said, “Joe Biden and I believe that

the Armenian Genocide is not an

allegation, personal opinion, or a

point of view, but rather a widely

documented fact supported by an

overwhelming body of historical

evidence.” There are many countries,

unions, states, individuals,

and others who have recognized

the historical truth of the Armenian

Genocide. Henry Morgenthau,

the US ambassador to the Ottoman

Empire from 1913-1916, recognized

the Genocide and warned the US

government about the “wholesale

slaughter” of the Armenians,

Greeks and Assyrians. Ambassador

Morgenthau’s Story, a book written

by Morgenthau, has been used as

a primary source concerning what

occurred in the Ottoman Empire

during World War I. In 1915 alone,

over forty articles were written by

the New York Times about the Genocide.

BBC News has also reported

on the Armenian Genocide. Pope

John Paul II issued a statement in

2000 condemning the Armenian

Genocide. Prominent countries

that have recognized the Genocide

include France, Germany, and Argentina.

In addition, a coalition of

countries, the European Union, has

recognized the Armenian Genocide.

Finally, many Turkish scholars

and historians have recognized the

Genocide, even in the face of the

punitive Turkish legal codes. These

figures include Hrant Dink, who

was later killed by a radical Turkish

nationalist for his views.

In the United States, 42 states

have recognized the Genocide independently

of the Federal Government.

During the 2007 visit of the

Catholicos, the leader of the Armenian

Apostolic Church, to Washington

DC, there was a push in congress

to pass a bill recognizing the

Armenian Genocide. Unfortunately,

the bill did not pass. However, there

is now a renewed drive to pass the

bill, implying that the majority of

the US populace considers the massacres

of Armenians, during and after

World War I, a genocide.

Even in the face of this conclusive

evidence, some countries still

deny calling the killings of Armenians

a genocide. They have been

threatened by Turkey with negative

financial or military repercussions.

In short, they have been

bullied, and they have capitulated.

The US should not be one of the

countries in this category. The

United States of America is the

moral leader of the world. Americans

pride themselves on helping

countries in need and doing the

right thing. However, how can the

US justify helping other countries

establish sound democracies or

governments, or even make correct

and morally sound choices in

deploying our troops, when inexplicably,

the US has not recognized

the first documented and photographed

Genocide at the beginning

of the 20th century

Recognizing the Armenian

Genocide is a strong moral statement

for the United States, and

should not be a choice. For what

other reason than realpolitik has

the Genocide not been acknowledged

I have read many news articles

on the fact that the US needs

to maintain a strong military presence

in the Middle East. Turkey

has become the location of choice,

because it is considered a “secular”

Muslim state, or even a “moderate”

Muslim state. However, given the

recent series of speeches by Abdullah

Gul, the President of Turkey,

who has railed against Israel, does

Turkey really seem all that “moderate”

The fact that a huge number

of Turkish citizens hate Israel and

by extension America, might make

Turkey less than “moderate.” The

Middle East is a “hot spot,” in the

world; however, the US may want

to consider that Turkey is not immune

to the passions and prejudices

of the past. Our attempt at

realpolitik, then, may be misguided.

In fact, would it not be appropriate

for America – a country founded

on the ideals of Truth – to step

away from realpolitik and simply

recognize the Truth of the Armenian

Genocide Does the US want

to give up on Truth-the fact that

that there was a systematic Genocide

of one and a half million Armenians-for

military base locations

It is always the right thing

to do to speak the Truth, and in

the end it will not compromise our

military presence in Turkey. For

all their bluster, it would not be in

Turkey’s interest to force the US to

close our bases. Both in terms of

Turkey’s safety and economic gain,

a US military presence in Turkey is

advantageous. Thus, we really do

not need to respond to Turkey’s

posturing and bullying. To do so

will open the United States up to

more bullying. I do appreciate the

importance of a military presence

in the Middle East. However, I

cannot understand or condone a

military base’s location taking precedence

over recognizing the true

reason for the death of one and a

half million fellow humans.

I ask you to please recognize the

Armenian massacres as Genocide,

not only to end an ongoing injustice

to the worldwide Armenian

community, but also to prevent

further genocides from occurring.

As you once said “America deserves

a leader who speaks truthfully

about the Armenian Genocide

and responds forcefully to

all genocides.” My parents tell me

that other presidents and presidential

nominees have promised

to recognize the Genocide when in

office. My family and I are looking

forward to seeing the Genocide

recognized by the United States,

under the leadership of President

Obama, this year.

Once the United States recognizes

the Armenian Genocide, we

will have truly fulfilled our role as

the moral and ethical leaders of

the world. The philosopher and

poet George Santayana once said:

“Those who cannot remember the

past are condemned to repeat it.”

Sadly, this has been true when it

comes to genocide. Rather than

stopping with the Armenians,

genocides-ridding a country of

certain ethnic groups-have occurred

in China (Nanking), Germany

(Hitler himself said, “Who,

after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation

of the Armenians”),

Cambodia (Pol Pot), Rwanda, Bosnia,

and today in Darfur. Simply

put, the more prolonged the recognition

of the Armenian Genocide

becomes, the less chance for future

acceptance of the historical fact of

genocide, and the more chance for

future genocides.

I respectfully ask that you support

the recognition of the Armenian

Genocide.

Sincerely,

Aram Balian, age 14

Chevy Chase, Md.


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 9

Community

Visit us at reporter.am

Professor Simon Payaslian.

Quick, someone

interview this man!

LOS ANGELES – A panel of chairholders

in Armenian studies and

directors of Armenian studies

programs convened at ucla on

March 28 discussed the state of

the field. Asked about interest

in the field among Armenian-

Americans, panelists noted that

scarce job opportunities scare

students away.

Simon Payaslian, who heads

a new program at Boston University,

put the blame squarely on the

shoulders of Armenian-American

media. He said Armenian newspapers

write about Armenian studies

only if they receive a press release.

He noted that no Armenian

paper has interviewed him.

The Armenian Reporter has

recently interviewed other professors

of Armenian studies, including

R.H. Dekmejian and

Richard Hovannisian, and it

is true that enrollment in their

programs is higher than that in

the Boston University program.

The correlation is not entirely

obvious, however.


—V.L.


10 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 11

4X11 Kchak


12 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Community

Armenians of Colorado host American University of Armenia guests

LOUISVILLE – The Armenians

of Colorado welcomed Ronald

Altoon and Edward Avedisian

to Louisville on March 24 with a

festive reception and a full table of

delicious Armenian delicacies prepared

by the AOC board members.

The group gathered at the home of

Betty and John Ohannessian to

hear Mr. Altoon describe his experiences

in designing a state-of-theart

educational building for the

American University of Armenia.

(See stories in the Armenian Reporter

for Nov. 8 and 15, 2008.)

Dr. Kenell Touryan, an aoc

member and aua’s vice president

for research and development,

welcomed the 35 guests, including

Bruce Janigian, aua’s vice president

for development and government

relations, and Dan Maljanian,

aua’s director of development.

aua’s founding chairperson

of the Board of Trustees and former

University of California official

William Frazer is an Aspen,

Colorado, resident and had hoped

to attend, but weather prevented

him from traveling.

Mr. Altoon, founding design partner

of Altoon + Porter Architects

in Los Angeles, presented slides of

the $16 million Paramaz Avedisian

Building project and described the

numerous challenges he faced in

bringing new building techniques

and environmentally sensitive solutions

to the country of Armenia.

The 100,000-square-foot building,

which doubles the size of the aua

campus in Yerevan, added a new

lecture hall, classrooms, laboratories,

research centers, faculty offices,

conference rooms, a café, and

an art gallery. The project was established

with a lead gift from the

family of Khoren and Shooshanig

Avedisian.

Mr. Altoon and Mr. Avedisian, of

Lexington, Massachusetts, were

in town to make a presentation to

the Society for College and University

Planning (scup) conference in

Boulder on March 25. Quoting William

Saroyan, Mr. Altoon remarked

that aoc had indeed created a

“New Armenia” by joining together

in the state of Colorado and providing

Armenians with the opportunity

to gather and enjoy fellowship.

He also invited the Armenians of

Colorado to join aua in its efforts

to support the future of Armenia

by ensuring the availability of highquality

graduate education. Mara

Gevorgian, an aoc member and

a graduate of aua’s business school

who now works for Standard &

Poors, closed the program by telling

of the impact her mba has had

on her career and the fond memories

she has of her time at aua.

Armenians of Colorado, Inc. is a

501(c)3 non-profit cultural organization

established in June of 1980.

Its purpose is to create a cohesive

Armenian community and to further

the understanding of Armenian

history, culture, language,

customs, and heritage. aoc actively

supports issues and concerns of the

Armenian-American community in

Colorado as well as those identified

within the Armenian diaspora communities

throughout the world.

The group facilitates Armenian

scholars and artists to share their

work with the Colorado community.

aoc also works with the Denver

Starz Encore Film Festival, the

Denver Symphony Orchestra, and

Opera Colorado in supporting Armenian

talent from many parts of

the world. It is through programs

such as these that aoc provides

inspiring events and enhances cultural

diversity within the Colorado

community.

In addition to offering stimulating

cultural and educational

programs, aoc is working toward

establishing an Armenian Cultural

Center. aoc recently purchased a

property in the Denver area and

hopes to raise sufficient funds to

build the center in the near future.


connect:

www.armeniansofcolorado.org

www.aua.am

At the Louisville,

Colo., home of

Betty and John

Ohannessian,

Armenians of

Colorado gather

to hear architect

Ronald Altoon

speak about his

experiences in

designing a stateof-the-art

educational

building

for the American

University of

Armenia. Edward

Avedisian, chair

of the building

committee, is second

from right.

Columbia U to hold conference on

Armenian Genocide April 9

NEW YORK – Andrea Kannapell

of the New York Times will

moderate a Columbia University

panel on “The Armenian Genocide

and its Relevance Today,” sponsored

by the Armenian Club, on

April 9. Prof. Taner Akçam, attorney

Mark Geragos, and Dr. David

Hamburg are the featured panelists

at the 6 p.m. event in Davis Hall.

Turkish-born historian and sociologist

Taner Akçam holds the chair

in Armenian Genocide studies at

Clark University; he is the author

of A Shameful Act and one of the

first Turkish academics to openly

discuss the Armenian Genocide.

Renowned criminal-defense attorney

Mark Geragos led successful

federal class-action lawsuits

against both New York Life Insurance

and AXA for unpaid insurance

benefits from the time of the Armenian

Genocide.

David Hamburg, Ph.D., president

emeritus at Carnegie Corporation

of New York, was awarded the Presidential

Medal of Freedom in 1996;

he is the author of Preventing Genocide:

Practical Steps toward Early Detection

and Effective Action.

The panelists will highlight why it

is still important to remember and

actively discuss the first genocide

of the 20th century; how its denial

has hindered subsequent attempts

at genocide prevention; and how

lessons learned from the Armenian

Genocide can help to prevent future

war crimes and crimes against

humanity.

A reception will follow the presentations

and audience discussion.


Classified listings now available

Please call 818-955-8407 or email us at classifieds@reporter.am

Calendar of Events

Northern California

APRIL 5 - PALM SUNDAY LUN-

CHEON. Location: Saroyan

Hall, 825 Brothehood Way, San

Francisco, CA. 2:00PM Admission:

$20 adults; $10 stud. For

more information contact KZV

8th Grade Class, 650-369-5932;

hsamurkashian@yahoo.com.

APRIL 5 - POLITICAL FORUM

FEAT. CONGRESSWOMAN

JACKIE SPEIER. Location: Calvary

Armenian Congregational

Church, 725 Brotherhood Way,

San Francisco, CA. 1:30pm-

3:30pm. Admission: No Charge.

For more information contact

Armenian Assembly of America,

(626) 577-0025; ykeshishian@

aaainc.org.

APRIL 11 - HAVGETAMARD

EASTER CELEBRATION. Location:

Saratoga Community

Center, 19655 Allendale Avenue,

Saratoga, CA. 7:30pm

Admission: $30 Adults $15 Kids.

For more information contact

Homenetmen Ani Chapter, at

homenetmenani@gmailc.om.

APRIL 19 - AVETIS BERBERIAN

CONCERT. Location: Bayside

Performing Art Center, 2025 Kehoe

Ave., San Mateo, CA. 5:00

pm. Admission: TBD. For more

information contact AGBU

Silicon Valley and Hamazkayin

“Nigol Aghpalian” Chapter, 415-

706-7251; nsarkiss@sbcglobal.

net. APRIL 25 - CACC AN-

NUAL BANQUET. Location:

Calvary Armenian Congregational

Church, 725 Brotherhood

Way, San Francisco, CA. 7:00

PM Admission: $75. For more

information contact CACC, 415-

586-2000; cacc@cacc-sf.org.

MAY 11 - PETER BALAKIAN

BAY AREA BOOK TOUR. Location:

Stanford University, Jordan

Hall, bldg 420, room 041,

Palo Alto, CA. 7:00 PM Admission:

free. For more information

contact Stanford Univ. Comparative

Lit Dept and Stanford

ASA, 650-926-4444; anahid1@

sonic .net.

MAY 12 - PETER BALAKI-

AN BAY AREA BOOK TOUR

CONTINUED. Location: Lick-.

Wilmerding High School, 755

Ocean Avenue, San Francisco,

CA. 7:00 PM Admission: free

and open to the. For more information

contact FACING

HISTORY AND OURSELVES,

510- 786-2500 x227; facinghistory.org/allstate.

MAY 13 - PETER BALAKIAN

BOOK TOUR CONTINUED.

Location: Book Passage Bookstore

in the San Francisco Ferry

Building, 1 Ferry Building #42,

San Francisco, CA. 6:00 PM Admission:

free. For more informa-


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 13

Community

Calendar of Events

tion contact BOOK PASSAGE

BOOKSOTRE, 415-835- 1020;

Bookpassage.com.

MAY 31 - YEREVAN DANCE

GROUP ANNIVERSARY SHOW.

Location: Cubberly Community

Center Theatre, 4000

Middlefield Road, Palo Alto,

CA. 6:00pm Admission: TBD.

For more information contact

Homenetmen Ani Chapter at

homenetmenani@gmail.com.

JULY 6 - HYE EM YES SUM-

MER DAY CAMP. Location: KZV

Armenian School, 825 Brotherhood

Way, San Francisco, CA.

8:30am-1:00pm Admission:

$200.00 for the week. For more

information contact Annie Bavoukian,

415-586-8686; abavoukian@kzv.org.

Central California

APRIL 18 - SPRING BINGO.

Location: California Armenian

Home, 6720 E. Kings Canyon

Rd., Fresno, CA. 5:45 pm Admission:

$15. For more information

contact Selma Triple X Fraternity

Charitable Trust, 559-226-

5796; rex@sti.net.

APRIL 26 - EMPOWERING FU-

TURE SHEPHERDS SCHOLAR-

SHIP BANQUET. Location: First

Armenian Presbyterian Church,

430 South First Street, Fresno,

CA. 1 pm Admission: $15 per

person. For more information

contact Armenian Theological

Students Aid Inc., 559-433-0746;

KarlVFresno@aol.com.

MAY 3 - CLASSICAL CON-

CERT BENEFIT OF ARMENIAN

CHURCH OF SANTA BAR-

BARA. Location: All Saints by

the Sea Church, 83 Eucalyptus

Lane, Santa Barbara, CA. 3pm

Admission: $30 adult. For more

information contact Armenian

Church, 805-965-3088; operaforlife19@yahoo.com.

MAY 17 - DISCOVER ARME-

NIA: SLIDE SHOW AND LUN-

CHEON. Location: St. Paul Armenian

Church, 3767 N. First

Street, Fresno, CA. 1:00 PM Admission:

Free / $10 Lunch. For

more information contact St.

Paul Armenian Church, 888-266-

7331; mkaranian@mac.com.

JUNE 7 - CAL POLY SLO M.

E. MUSIC/DANCE ENS. Location:

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,

Spanos Theatre, San Luis Obispo,

CA. 7 pm, for more information

contact Cal Poly SLO at 562-941-

0845; bozigian@earthlink.net.

Southern California

APRIL 4-12 - GAREN

PETROSSIAN WILL PERFORM

IN WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S

“OTHELLO”. Location: Actor’s

Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner Ave.,

Los Angeles, CA. Admission: $15.

For specific dates and times contact

The Charlens Company, 323-

640-3823.

APRIL 4 - FRIENDS OF AR-

MENIA - 17TH ANNUAL DIN-

NER DANCE. Location: Palladio

Banquet Hall, 1018 E. Colorado

St., Glendale, CA. 7:30 PM Admission:

$75 adults/$50 youth.

For more information contact

Friends Of Armenia, 323-721-

6204; salixan@yahoo.com.

APRIL 5 - 2ND ANNUAL ARME-

NIAN CULTURAL FESTIVAL.

Location: Woodbury University,

7500 Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank,

CA. 11:00 am Admission: FREE.

For more information contact

ALL Armenian Student Association,

818-624-2427; woodburyuniversity_asa@yahoo.com.

APRIL 19 - MIKHAIL SI-

MONYAN, VIOLIN. Location:

Raitt Recital Hall: Pepperdine

University, 24255 Pacific Coast

Hwy., Malibu, CA. 2:00 PM. Admission:

$25. For more information

contact Center For The

Arts, (212) 994-3540; tdorn@

imgartists.com.

APRIL 26 - COMMEMORA-

TION OF THE ARMENIAN

GENOCIDE, AND FILM ENTI-

TLED “THE RIVER RAN RED”.

Location: St. Patrick’s Episcopal

Church, One Church Road,

Thousand Oaks, CA. 12:15pm

Admission: Free. For more information

contact Armenian

Apostolic Church of Ventura

County, 818-645-5662; fr.hovel@

yahoo.com.

MAY 1 - 8TH ANNUAL GLEN-

DALE “ARARAT” TENNIS

TOURNAMENT. Location: Glorietta

Park, 1733 Glorietta Ave,

Glendale, CA. See Application

for Admission. For more information

contact Homenetmen

Glendale “Ararat” Chapter, 323-

256-0651; athletics@ararat.org.

MAY 3 - ARMENIAN INTERNA-

TIONAL MEDICAL FUND GALA

DINNER. Location: The Glendale

Hilton, 100 W. Glenoaks Blvd,

Glendale, CA. 5:30 PM Admission:

$100.00. For more information

contact Armenian International

Medical Fund, 818-257-

8998; AIM_Fund@yahoo.com.

MAY 17 - DAVIDIAN-MARI-

AMIAN 2ND ANNUAL TELE-

THON. Location: DMEF, 658 W

Hawthorne St Unit B, Glendale,

CA. 6:00 pm to Midnight Admission:

Donation. For more

information contact Mariette

Keshishian, 909-373-7876;

m.keshishian@actiumconsulting.com.

MAY 18 - ARMENIA AND

KARABAKH ILLUSTRATED

TRAVELOGUE AND AUTHOR-

TALK WITH AUTHOR-PHO-

TOGRAPHERS MATTHEW

KARANIAN AND ROBERT

KURKJIAN. Location: Distant

Lands Travel Bookstore, 56 S.

Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA.

7:00 pm to 8:15 pm. Free Admission.

For more information

contact Distant Lands, 626-449-

3220; www.distantlands.com

MAY 23 - AN EVENIG AT WALT

DISNEY CONCERT HALL.

Location: PROKOFIEV AND

SHOSTAKOVICH, 111 SOUTH

GRAND AVENUE, LOS ANGE-

LES, Los Angeles, CA. 7:00 P.M.

Admission: $ 58.00. For more

information contact Armenian

Professional Society, 818-685-

9946; apsla@apsla.org.

MAY 24 - ARMENIAN INDE-

PENDENCE DAY FESTIVAL.

Location: Little Armenia, Hollywood

Blvd. and Alexandria,

Hollywood, CA. 11am Admission:

Free. For more information

contact Armenian Cultural

Foundation, 818-243-9264; info@

littlearmeniafestival.org.

MAY 31 - 32ND ANNIVERSARY

CHURCH BANQUET. Location:

St. John Garabed Armenian

Church, 4473 30th Street, San

Diego, CA. 12:30 pm. For more

information contact St. John

Garabed Armenian Church, 619-

284-7179; S t J o h n G a -

rabed@sbcglobal.net.

JUNE 6 - ARMENIAN FOOD

FAIR & FEST. Location: Holy

Cross Cathedral Grounds, 900

W Lincoln Avenue, Montebello,

CA. Noon - 10pm Admission:

Free Admission. For more information

contact Holy Cross

Cathedral, 323-727-1113; info@

armenianfoodfair.com.

JUNE 7 & 13 - POPULAR AR-

MENIAN SINGER HAMLET

GEVORKIAN AND HIS BAND

– IN CONCERT. Location: Glendale

High School. His US tour

starts after this performance.

For more information call 818-

242-6928; 818-246-0125; 818-246-

2070.

AUGUST 16 - ANNUAL

CHURCH PICNIC AND GRAPE

BLESSING. Location: Mission

Bay Park, Mission Blvd., San

Diego, CA. 12:00pm Admission:

Free. For more information contact

St John Garabed Armenian

Church, 619-284-7179; StJohnGarabed@sbcglobal.net.

SEPTEMBER 5 - FIFA - AR-

MENIAN VS. BOSNIA-HER-

ZEGOVINA SOCCER GAME

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Program, (626)794-7942;

info@agbugennext.org.

SEPTEMBER 9 - FIFA ARME-

NIA VS. BELGIUM SOCCER

GAME SHOWING. Location:

AGBU Alex Manoogian Pasadena

Center, 2495 E. Mountain St.,

Pasadena, CA. Admission: Free.

For more information contact

AGBU Generation Next Mentorship

Program, 626-794-7942;

info@agbugennext.org.

OCTOBER 10 - FIFA - ARME-

NIA VS. SPAIN SOCCER GAME

SHOWING. Location: AGBU

Alex Manoogian Pasadena

Center, 2495 E. Mountain St.,

Pasadena, CA. Admission: Free.

For more information contact

AGBU Generation Next Mentorship

Program, 626-794-7942;

info@agbugennext.org.

OCTOBER 14 - FIFA- AR-

MENIA VS TURKEY SOCCER

GAME SHOWING. Location:

AGBU Alex Manoogian Pasadena

Center, 2495 E. Mountain St.,

Pasadena, CA. Admission: Free.

For more information contact

AGBU Generation Next Mentorship

Program, 626-794-7942;

info@agbugennext.org.

OCTOBER 17 - ANNUAL BA-

ZAAR- ARMENIAN CULTURAL

FESTIVAL. Location: St John

Garabed Armenian Church,

4473 30th Street, San Diego, CA.

12:00pm Admission: Free. For

more information contact St.

John Garabed Armenian Church,

619-284-7179; StJohnGarabed@

sbcglobal.net.

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14 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Community

Kim Kardashian is proudest of her Armenian genes and her

Armenian vor, she says in exclusive US-Armenia TV appearance

BURBANK, Calif. – Celebrity

and fourth generation Armenian-

American Kim Kardashian gave

an exclusive interview to US-Armenia

TV on April 1, telling her Armenian

and non-Armenian fans that

she was proudest of her Armenian

genes and her Armenian vor. Noting

that her late father, O.J. Simpson

attorney Robert Kardashian,

had dreamed of visiting Armenia,

she announced that she plans to

fulfill her father’s dream.

Casual, gracious, funny, flirtatious,

and always mesmerizing, the

drop-dead gorgeous 20-something

reached out to some 7 million US-

Armenia TV viewers over-the-air

on digital channel 18.5 in Southern

California, via cable and the Globecast

satellite to the United States

and North America, to Europe, the

Middle East and Africa on the global

Hotbird satellite, and via terrestrial

antennas all over the Republic

of Armenia and the Armenian Republic

of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Kim spoke to Armenia TV personalities

Hovo and Rafo, telling

them that she wanted to learn to

speak Armenian. For now, she said,

she can say “inchbes es” (how are

you) and “vor” (ass).

Kim began the interview by talking

about her hit series on the E!

network, Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The reality show is also

licensed by CS Media, which owns

US-Armenia TV and with which

this newspaper is affiliated.

The Kardashian family, to most

fans, has an addictive appeal, luring

people to Kim’s personal website,

to the weekly airings and repeats of

the series, and to magazines, print

and TV reports about this Armenian

family. Keeping Up with the

Kardashians began its third season

with a bang and with a promise to

show even the most personal conversations

between family members

and their love interests.

In addition to her reality series,

Kim talked about her new online

Kim Kardashian.

enterprise called shoedazzle.com,

where she and her team of style

experts can help find the perfect

shoes for any woman. “And you

know how much woman love their

shoes,” said the fashion guru.

Kim also shared her beauty secrets

and teased her new exercise

dvd series called Fit in Your Jeans

by Friday, now available at the Kardashian’s

clothing stores in Calabasas

and via the Internet.

US-Armenia TV talk show host

Paul Chaderjian – who sat next

to Kim on the Armenia TV set in

Burbank – shared Hovo and Rafo’s

questions and comments with Kim.

Kim said one of her dreams is to

learn how to make Armenian food.

She said she often goes to a restaurant

in Glendale to celebrate her

love for Armenian cuisine and to

honor her father’s memory.

Chaderjian, a seven-year Englishlanguage

newscaster and talk-show

host on Armenia TV’s satellite

services, said one of his colleagues

would gladly teach Kim how to

make Armenian food. “I would love

that,” said Kim, “but I’d like to bring

my brother and sisters.”

Hovo and Rafo said they would

gladly be the superstar’s tour

guides in Armenia, and Kim quickly

accepted their offer, telling the

comedy duo that she loved them.

Hovo, in his quick-witted, comedic

voice, asked Kim if she would

marry him, and Kim’s comeback

was “only if we can have a big, lavish,

Armenian wedding.” Rafo then

broke the news that Hovo was already

married.

Speaking of her father, Kim said,

“He always regretted not sending us

to Armenian school. My mom always

says, ‘I wish I knew Armenian

so I could teach you.’”

This need to learn about her ethnic

heritage and to be able to communicate

with her own grandfather, whom

she said she visits every week, are two

of the reasons Kim Kardashian may

soon be landing at Zvartnots Airport,

Armenian spirit celebrated in N.J. photography exhibit

with Hovo and Rafo and thousands

of fans ready to greet her.

connect:

kimkardashian.com

shoedazzle.com

PARAMUS – Bergen Community

College will celebrate the Armenian

people’s triumph over tragedy

with the New Jersey premiere of

“The Armenians: Spirit of Survival,”

a photography exhibit sponsored

by the College’s Center for the

Study of Intercultural Understanding,

the Bergen Community College

Peace, Justice and Reconciliation

Center and the Bergen Community

College Foundation. Gallery Bergen,

the College’s 2,250-square-foot

art exhibition space, will house

the display from Saturday, April

25, to Friday, May 22. The gallery

is located on the third floor of the

College’s high-technology and arts

building, West Hall, at 400 Paramus

Road, Paramus. The gallery’s

hours of operation are Tuesdays,

Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.

to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays from 11 a.m.

to 8 p.m.; and Saturdays from 11

a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free and

open to the public.

The exhibit, provided by Project

save Armenian Photograph Archives,

Inc., chronicles the struggle

of the Armenian people in the late

19th and early 20th centuries as

their culture, religion, language and

very existence were threatened by

the Ottoman, Russian and Persian

empires, and then later by the Soviet

Union. The Armenian people

were the targets of the 20th-century’s

first genocide, which led to

the deaths of as many as 1.5 million

people in 1915. The Armenians persevered

- in spite of great loss - and

found the spirit needed to thrive.

Ruth Thomasian, executive director

of Project save, will conduct

a presentation on Tuesday, April

28, at 2 p.m. in Gallery Bergen on

the origins of the Armenian photograph

archives and on the development

of the exhibition. Project

save, founded in 1975, is a Watertown,

Mass.-based nonprofit whose

mission is to collect, document and

preserve the historic and modern

photographic record of Armenians

and their heritage. Thomasian

Photographs

such as this one,

by Soursourian

and courtesy of

Edna Bogosian,

depicting an

unknown

Armenian family

c. 1900, will

be on display

at Bergen

Community

College’s

Armenians:

Spirit of

Survival exhibit.

Soursourianþ.

maintains the world’s only photographic

archive chronicling the

journey of the Armenian people.

The Gallery Bergen display will

feature 40 large photographs and

include text documenting the Armenians’

internment, mass execution

and subsequent diaspora from

Asia Minor. Project SAVE’s 25,000

photographs, which date from

1860, feature families living during

the Ottoman, Russian and Persian

empires, the Soviet Socialist Republic

of Armenia and the Republic of

Armenia.

Members of Project save work

closely with photo donors to obtain

the images, which have appeared at

Ellis Island Museum in New York,

the Smithsonian Institute, Washington,

D.C., and in many books

and television programs.

Bergen County has at least 8,500

Armenian Americans, most of

whom reside in the southeastern

part of the county.

Bergen Community College is a

public two-year coeducational college,

enrolling more than 15,000

students in Associate in Arts, Associate

in Science, and Associate in

Applied Science degree programs

and certificate programs. More

than 10,000 students are enrolled

in non-credit, professional courses

through the Division of Continuing

Education, the Institute for

Learning in Retirement, the Philip

J. Ciarco Jr. Learning Center, located

at 355 Main Street, Hackensack,

and Bergen at the Meadowlands,

located at 1280 Wall Street West,

Lyndhurst.


connect:

bergen.edu

1-201-447-7200


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 15

Armenia

The Molokans add ethnic color to Armenia

Exiled from Russia,

they found tolerance

in Armenia

by Tatul Hakobyan

LERMONTOVO and FIOLETOVO,

Lori Province, Armenia – Ivan

Makshanov, a Russian Molokan,

was born and has always lived in

the village of Lermontovo. His ancestors,

exiled from the Saradova

province of Russia, have also lived

in this village. “Our homeland was

Russia. We were exiled from there.

If they exiled us here, and we have

lived in Armenia for more than 150

years, then Armenia is our homeland,”

he says as he places buckets

of water on the floor.

Aside from Lermontovo and Fioletovo,

the Molokans also live in

Yerevan and Dilijan and they number

about 5,000 in Armenia.

If you’ve ever been to one of the

closed markets in Yerevan, you will

have no doubt come across young

women and girls with pale skin, red

cheeks, and white head scarves,

selling pickled cabbage. They are

the Molokans, Russians who were

exiled to eastern Armenia from

the Russian countryside because of

their faith, in the early 19th century.

Czar Nikolas I exiled to the

Caucasus those Russians who did

not accept the Russian Church. The

Molokans are pure Russians who

rejected church icons, the Trinity,

the Orthodox fasts, military service,

and the eating of foods they

consider unclean, among other

church rituals.

The village head of Lermontovo,

Edik Chakhalyan was born and

raised among Molokans. He is

amazed at the work ethic of Molokans.

“If an Armenian gets 1.5 tons

of cabbage from 1,000 square meters

of land, then a Molokan is able

to get 4 tons. They are extraordinarily

hard-working and know how

to work the land,” says the village

head. Lermontovo, which is 13

kilometers away from the city of

Vanadzor, has 800 Russian Molokans,

150 Armenians, and 60 Yezidi

Kurds.

The religion of the Molokans

took shape during the second half

of the 18th century in the Dambovi

province of Russia. The name

“Molokan” is connected to the “spiritual

milk” in the Bible (moloka in

Russian means milk). Molokanism

was the religious expression of a

social protest against slavery and

the Russian Orthodox Church.

I was in Lermontovo and Fioletovo

at the end of March, when the

entire region was covered in snow.

It occurs to you that you are in the

Russian countryside. People were

speaking Russian, their homes

were identical to those found in

Russian villages – one-story structures

constructed of wood and

painted blue.

Olga Zatorkinan, the librarian

at the Russian school in Fioletovo,

requested not to be photographed

but agreed to speak to me. Molokans

as a rule do not like to be

photographed. “We were born and

raised here. This is our homeland.

Sometimes, when some of our people

go to Russia to work, they meet

Armenians whom they consider

their compatriots. We are very hospitable,

just like the Armenians. We

gather together every Sunday, just

as God said to dedicate every Sunday

to him. Every gathering has its

leader. Our Holy Bible is the Asdvatsashunch

(the Armenian Bible).

We don’t believe in the cross, or in

icons,” said Ms. Zatorkina.

Ania and Tania.

The people of Fioletovo were exiled

here in 1840 from the village of

Algasovo, in the Dambovi province

of Russia. At the time, 57 families

were exiled. Today, almost 170 years

later, they number 1,500. Fioletovo

is the first village you come upon

when driving from Dilijan and

Vanadzor. There are only eight Armenians

in this village; two brothers

with their families.

The Russian-language teacher

at the school in Fioletovo, Alla

Rudiamodkina, said that very

few Molokans go on to seek postsecondary

education, because

just as in their school years, the

children stay to help their parents.

Alla explained that drinking alcohol

is forbidden for Molokans

and they are not encouraged to

watch television. In the evenings,

Molokans like to read, primarily

the Bible.

Molokans are primarily occupied

in cattle breeding and farming.

During the Soviet years, when

trains from Armenia would travel

to the very remote corners of the

union, the Molokans would sell

their famous pickled cabbage in the

markets of different cities.

Alexei Novikov, the village

head of Fioletovo, said that they

live off the land. “The land is not

fertile. The only way we can receive

a good harvest is through extremely

hard work. During Soviet

times we were primarily planting

cabbage, making pickles out of it,

and then selling it throughout the

country to Moscow, Ukraine, the

Urals, and many other places. Today

we make it only for the market

in Armenia. Armenians come,

we agree on a price, and then they

take the pickled cabbage and sell it,”

said Mr. Novikov.

The village head went on to say

that they have never felt discriminated

against as an ethnic or religious

minority in Armenia.

“We consider our homeland to be

Armenia. Russia is not our homeland,

where they call us presbyters

because we were at one time exiled

A typical Molokan home in the village of Lermontovo.

Left: Molokan

children in

Fioletovo. Right:

Ivan Makshanov.

Photos: Tatul

Hakobyan for

the Armenian

Reporter.

from Russia. [Presbyters in Russian

terminology means those people

who follow the Molokan religious

rituals on Sundays.]

Molokans live a humble life;

they are honest and hardworking.

They do not pursue riches, but they

most definitely help their neighbors

and friends. Their houses are

not large nor lavish, but certainly

clean and tidy. Their numbers in

Armenia are only about 5,000, but

without them, Armenia would

certainly become even more monoethnic.

It is a good thing that they

no longer leave the country and

that they consider it their homeland.

f


16 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Armenia

Coup charges against jailed opposition dropped

by Karine Kalantarian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) – An Armenian

judge on Wednesday ended

the controversial collective trial of

seven opposition figures arrested

following last year’s post-election

clashes in Yerevan after prosecutors

dropped coup charges leveled

against them.

The new twist in the so-called

“Case of the Seven” resulted from

the newly enacted amendments to

Articles 225 and 300 of the Armenian

Criminal Code used against

the prominent supporters of opposition

leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.

The articles deal with provocation

of street violence and “usurpation

of state authority by force” respectively.

One of the amendments

passed by the Armenian parliament

on March 18 divided Article

300 into three sections detailing

various forms of power usurpation

and toughening punishment for

some of them.

Citing the amendments, the chief

trial prosecutor, Koryun Piloyan,

said during a chaotic court session

on Wednesday that the defendants,

among them three parliament

deputies and a former foreign minister,

will now face no accusations

stemming from Article 300 but

must continue to be tried for organizing

the March 1, 2008 “mass

disturbances” in Yerevan. Two of

them, Miasnik Malkhasian and Sasun

Mikaelian, also remain accused

of resisting police and illegally possessing

weapons respectively, said

Piloyan. The prosecutor’s speech

was drowned out by furious shouts

from defendants.

Sasun Mikaelian’s case will be

sent to Kotayk regional court,

while the others will be heard at

Yerevan’s Central and Nork Marash

district courts, presided over by

different judges. Judge Mnatsakan

Martirosian will be presiding over

Alexander Arzumanian’s and Suren

Sirunyan’s case.

Presently, it is not clear, which

courts will be examining the remaining

cases. This means that their

trials will be prolonged because the

presiding judges will have to become

acquainted with their cases.

The judge in the case, Mnatsakan

Martirosian, responded by ruling

that the seven oppositionists

should stand fresh and separate

trials for orchestrating the vicious

clashes between Ter-Petrosian supporters

and security forces that left

ten people dead and more than 200

others injured. Justifying the surprise

decision, Martirosian cited

the complexity of the case involving

about 400 witnesses and “victims”

as well as the need to speed

up judicial proceedings.

With the riot charge punishable

by between four to ten years in

prison under the amended Article

225, Martirosian declined to free

the defendants pending further

trial. It is therefore unlikely that

any of them will be set free before

this month’s session of the Council

of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

(PACE) which is due to discuss

Yerevan’s compliance with its January

resolution on Armenia.

The resolution deplored the continuing

imprisonment of dozens

of Armenian opposition members.

Still, the Strasbourg-based assembly

backed down on its threats to

suspend the voting rights of its Armenian

members, citing the Armenian

authorities’ pledge to amend

the Criminal Code. It interpreted

the pledge as an indication that the

authorities will finally free all oppositionists

jailed on “seemingly

artificial or politically motivated

charges.”

Meanwhile, the defense lawyers

in the trial criticized Martirosian’s

decision and said they will likely

appeal against it. “The court made

a decision that took both the defense

lawyers and prosecutors by

surprise,” one of them, Melanya

Arustamian, told RFE/RL.

“They have split up the case because

it was having too much public

resonance,” said Vartuhi Elbakian.

According to another attorney,

Hovik Abrahamian, the judge

Turkey signals that it might open the border

Ankara’s blockade

of Armenia officially

began 16 years ago

News analysis by Tatul

Hakobyan

YEREVAN – One of the most talked

about issues in Yerevan today is

Armenian-Turkish relations. More

specifically the two components of

that relationship: (1) Will Turkey

finally lift the blockade of Armenia

In other words will it open

the border (2) Will Barack Obama

in his message to the Armenian

people on April 24 use the word

“genocide” as he had promised

during his election campaign. Mr.

Obama, along with Vice President

Joe Biden and Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton, have in the past

supported Armenian Genocide

resolutions.

It is expected that the president

of the United States will be visiting

Ankara and Istanbul April

5-7. Mr. Obama’s visit to Turkey

will be his first European visit.

(He will also visit Great Britain,

France, and the Czech Republic.)

The visit will be his first to

a Moslem-majority country. Mr.

Obama has decided to go to Turkey,

which illustrates the importance

of the U.S.-Turkey relationship

and the role Turkey plays for

the United States in the Black Sea,

the Middle East, and Europe.

The overriding opinion of politicians

and analysts in Armenia

is that if Turkey doesn’t open the

border with Armenia – or at least

one of the check points – before

April 24, then Mr. Obama will honor

his pledge and be the first U.S.

president since 1981 to say the word

“genocide.”

Statements have been published

in the Turkish press which

say that there is a possibility that

Turkey will open the border before

April 24.

Abdullah Gül and Serge Sargsian in Yerevan. Photo: Photolure.

An anniversary

Exactly 16 years earlier, on April 4,

1993, in solidarity with Baku, the

Turkish government decided to

close the border with Armenia and

announced that as long as Karabakh

forces had not left the region

of Kelbajar, the borders would remain

closed.

By December 1991 Ankara had

recognized the independence

of the three Caucasus countries.

However, while it established diplomatic

relations with Georgia and

Azerbaijan, Ankara refused to establish

diplomatic relations with

Armenia, stating that Armenia had

territorial claims on Turkey. Turkish

authorities referred to Armenia’s

declaration of independence

in 1990 – where there are no direct

territorial claims, however.

Until April 1993, the two Armenia-Turkey

check-points, the

Kars-Gyumri railroad, and the land

crossing at Alijan-Markara were

open, even though there were no

diplomatic relations between the

two countries.

After the events at Kelbajar, Turkey

closed the border. That does not

Journalists following the court proceedings. Photo: Photolure.

necessarily mean, however, that

the Turkish authorities adopted a

hostile policy against Armenia in

the name of or for the sake of Azerbaijan.

We should not discount that

Turkey was looking for an excuse to

close its border with Armenia, and

it would have been hard pressed

to find a better opportunity than

the Karabakh conflict. By placing

Armenia in a blockade, Turkey satisfied

the wishes of Azerbaijan, its

ally, on the one hand, and on the

other hand, it found new ways to

place pressure on Armenia, citing

the unresolved issue of Karabakh.

The leaders of the newly independent

Armenia, especially those

who were negotiating with Turkey,

insist that until in the spring of

1993, the two countries were very

close to establishing diplomatic relations;

there was even a draft report

based upon which diplomatic

relations would be established.

Two months before the events

at Kelbajar, on January 31, 1993,

Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel

met with Gerard Libaridian, advisor

to the Armenian president, and

special negotiator Davit Shahnazarian.

During that meeting, Mr.

Demirel promised that Armenia

would continue to receive Turkish

wheat.

Armenia, blockaded by its neighbors,

was receiving Turkish wheat

during those very difficult years, a

reality that was causing Azerbaijan

discomfort. Mr. Demirel assured

Mr. Libaridian and Mr. Shahnazarian

that Armenia would receive the

promised 100,000 tons of wheat

and recommended continuing bilateral

talks for the establishment

of diplomatic relations until they

saw if a cease fire could really be put

into place in Karabakh.

When Karabakh forces entered

Kelbajar in the end of March, Turkey’s

reaction was swift. On April 2,

Turkey closed the border and two

days later passed a government

decision about the blockade of Armenia.

Instead of 100,000 tons of

wheat, Armenia received 52,000

tons.

Some in Armenia

believe that if Turkey

doesn’t open the

border with Armenia

before April 24, then

Mr. Obama will honor

his pledge and say the

word “genocide.”

dealt a serious blow to government

claims that the deadly unrest in

Yerevan was the result of an opposition

conspiracy to seize power

by violent means. He said the implication

is that there was never

a concerted opposition effort to

trigger the worst street violence in

Armenia’s history. “The court has

proved that … the whole thing is a

fabrication,” claimed Arsenian.

As a result of the judge’s decision,

the relatives of the 10 victims

of the March 1 clashes have been

excluded from the criminal court

proceedings. “We don’t know what

will happen. Who should we apply

to Where shall we go Will there

be a new investigation This is not

clear to us,” Sarkis Kloyan, the father

of Gor Kloyan, one of the 10

victims told RFE/RL. “But we have

our own initiative and we will apply

to the courts to hold responsible

four police officers for applying

special methods of the Chermukha-7.”

During the events of March 1,

three people were killed because

of the Chermukha-7 (tear gas gun),

they were Tigran Khachatryan, 23;

Gor Kloyan, 29; Armen Farmanyan,

35.

f

Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc.

Reprinted with the permission of

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201

Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC

20036. www.rferl.org

If Turkey puts an end to its

blockade of Armenia, this will be

seen as the success of the Armenian

authorities. However, what

is important is what Turkey is demanding

in return for opening the

border. If that price is expensive,

then the opening of the border

could be meaningless. It appears

that the authorities are no longer

focusing on the international recognition

of the Armenian Genocide.

Neither President Serge

Sargsian nor Foreign Minister

Edward Nalbandian – in contrast

to their predecessors Robert Kocharian

and Vartan Oskanian,

are touching upon or stressing the

theme of the Armenian Genocide

in international forums. And Turkey,

in turn, is no longer stressing

or placing the Karabakh conflict

on its agenda of normalizing

Armenian-Turkish relations as it

once did.

Is no longer stressing the recognition

of the Armenian Genocide a

satisfactory concession for Turkey

to put an end to its blockade It

is difficult to say because the details

of the Armenian-Turkish negotiations

are being kept secret. It

is even difficult to say whether or

not there is even a proposal that

the two sides are working on, or

if Armenia and Turkey are simply

negotiating for the sake of negotiating.

There is a sentiment in Yerevan,

which is not so far-fetched,

that the final result of the negotiations

is not what is important for

Ankara, but only the negotiations

themselves. In other words, Turkey

simply wants to overcome Mr.

Obama’s and April 24th’s danger.

Turkey today is using threatening

words and blackmail, saying that

if the “Genocide” word is uttered,

then that will strike a heavy blow

against Armenian-Turkish bilateral

talks and the registered successes.

The Armenian side is not responding

to all of this. It is simply

remaining silent, perhaps thinking

that a breakthrough in Armenian-

Turkish relations is imminent, and

every indiscreet statement could

strike a bitter blow to Armenian-

Turkish bilateral talks.

Certainly, by opening the borders

Turkey is not doing us a great favor.

It is simply putting an end to 16

years of a continual hostile policy.

Internationally, placing a neighbor

in a blockade is considered to be

aggression, in other words, Turkey,

for the last 16 years has realized

a policy of “peaceful” aggression

against Armenia.

f


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 17

Armenia

From Armenia, in brief

Germany’s Minister of

State in Armenia

Minister of State at the German

Federal Foreign Office Gernot Erler

and the head of the German-

South Caucasian parliamentary

group of the German Bundestag

Steffen Reiche were in Armenia

for a working visit March 29-30.

During their visit to the country,

they met with President Serge

Sargsian, Prime Minister Tigran

Sarkisian, Foreign Affairs Minister

Edward Nalbandian, Speaker

of the National Assembly Hovik

Abrahamian and other high ranking

officials.

Armenpress reports that President

Sargsian told the German officials

that Armenia is grateful for

the assistance Germany has provided

since independence, as it is

the second donor country as well

as one of the biggest trade partners.

The president went on to say that

Armenia is very interested in deepening

and strengthening ties with

Germany.

The sides discussed the domestic

political situation, the peaceful

resolution of the Karabakh conflict,

emerging Armenian-Turkish relations,

bilateral trade, the EU’s Eastern

Partnership Initiative, as well

as other issues of importance.

PACE Monitoring

Commission welcomes

amendments in

country’s criminal code

The Monitoring Commission of

the Parliamentary Assembly of the

Council of Europe (PACE), during

its session in Valencia welcomed

amendments to articles 225 and

300 to Armenia’s Criminal Code,

Armenpress reports.

David Harutyunyan.

David Harutyunyan, head of

the Armenian delegation to PACE

said that taking into consideration

that the changes in the articles

are in force but have yet to be

implemented said, “The further

implementation of the law will

Gernot Erler (l.) and Edward Nalbandian. Photos: Photolure.

continue to be under the limelight

of the monitoring commission.”

The law will be implemented by

the April session of PACE, when the

monitoring commission will once

again refer to the issue.

Berdashen village in

Karabakh to have new

water-supply system

Financed by the Hayastan All-Armenia

Fund’s Argentinean affiliate

and the government of Karabakh,

the village of Berdashen in

the region of Martuni will have a

new water-supply system, worth

210 million AMD (about $555,000

US).

Berdashen’s water-supply system

was built in the 1960s and was

for a very long time in a state of

disrepair. The pump station was

renovated, cancer-causing asbestos

pipes were replaced with plastic

ones, and a 3.6-kilometer pipeline

was built, already supplying Berdashen

with water.

The next phase of the initiative,

the building of the internal waterdistribution

network, is underway.

When this leg of the project is completed

by autumn 2009, all 1,500

residents of Berdashen will receive

a regular supply of water, Armepress

reports.

Armenian-Swedish

business forum held in

Yerevan

Infrastructure, energy, information

technologies, environmental

protection are some of the topics

discussed at the Armenian-Swedish

business forum held in Yerevan

on April 2. Participants also discussed

programs by the IMF, the

investment climate in the country,

relations between Armenia and the

European Union.

Armenia’s minister of economy,

Swiss deputy minister of trade,

deputy foreign minister of Armenia,

deputy minister of energy and

natural resources of Armenia and

other officials took part in the forum,

Arminfo reported.

Byurakan Observatory

at the center of

scientific tourism

Hayk Harutyunyan, director of

the Byurakan Observatory told representatives

of big tourism agencies

operating in Armenia gathered

in Byurakan that the observatory

should be at the center of scientific

tourism to Armenia.

The director said that the region

which includes Oshakan, the

churches of the Ashtarak region,

the summer residence of the

Catholicos, the Fortress of Amberd,

Karahunj (Armenia’s stone henge),

Metsamor, and Aghdz would be an

ideal center for tourism.

UNESCO has declared 2009 as

the year of International Astrology

with the goal to present astrology

to all spheres of society.

The goal here is to promote and

encourage tourists interested in

astrology to visit the Byurakan

Observatory, which thanks

to renowned scientist Viktor

Hambardzumian became one of

the centers devoted to the study of

astrology.

World Autism Day

marked in Yerevan for

the first time

The number of people suffering

from autism is growing in Armenia

and official statistics do not reflect

their real numbers since children

afflicted with this syndrome are often

times living completed isolated

from the public.

A conference dedicated to shedding

light on this issue and raising

awareness was held at the UN Yerevan

office on April 2.

Nani Oskanian.

Nani Oskanian, chair of Children

Health Care was on hand and said,

“We are concerned about the future

of children with this syndrome. We

need to look for ways of identifying

children with autism and help integrate

them in society.” According to

Arminfo, Ms. Okanian went on to

say that they are working in three

directions to deal with autism. First

it is important to have in place tools

for early diagnosis and treatment;

secondly raise awareness and thirdly

to initiate research in this sphere.

“I should say with regret, that our

society is not ready to discuss such

problems,” she said.

Deputy Health Minister Tatul

Hakobyan said that the health

ministry is paying special attention

to the rising cases of autism in the

country.

Nearly 60,000

Armenians annually

leave for Russia as

seasonal workers

Armenpress reports that due to the

global financial crisis, the number

of Armenians going to Russia as

seasonal workers will most likely

decrease. The reason being the reduction

of available employment in

Russia. Gagik Yeganian, head of Armenia’s

Migration Agency said that

even longterm migrants may possible

return, primarily from Russia

for the same reasons.

With less people traveling to

Russia to work and more migrants

returning, the pressure on the

system in Armenia will deepen.

According to Mr. Yeganian it will

not be possible to reintegrate

these returning workers into the

economy however their agency is

taking certain steps to help smooth

the situation. For example, they

are considering providing seeds or

dairy cattle to migrants from the

villages so that they can at the very

least, manage to have some form

of income.

Children’s book cover.

A week of celebrating

children’s books kicks

off

Under the auspices of the Armenian

Writers’ Union, a week celebrating

children’s and young adult

novels kicked off in the city of

Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest

city. Levon Ananian, head of the

Writers’ Union told reporters that

a prize for the year’s best children’s

book will be awarded.

Children’s book writers will visit

schools throughout the country,

where they will have an opportunity

to meet with students and present

their books.

Mr. Ananian notes that today

there are many good children’s

writers who have written high quality

books. “We should be able to deliver

the book from the publisher to

the reader,” he told Armenpress. f

Byurakan Observatory.


18 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

Editorial

Commentary

the armenian

reporter

Moving Turkish-Armenian relations to a new level

U.S., Turkish, and Armenian diplomats have been spreading word that an agreement between

Turkey and Armenia is imminent. The agreement would likely have the following elements:

• Turkey would agree to open the border with Armenia, which it closed 16 years ago today,

and to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia.

Armenia would agree to an intergovernmental commission to examine all issues that

constitute the Armenia-Turkey agenda.

• The United States would refrain from dealing publicly with any of the most contentious

historical and contemporary issues on the Armenia-Turkey agenda while the commission

was in play.

(Alternatively, the sides will formally agree to discuss these matters further. In other words,

a process rather than an outcome will be announced. Such a process could and likely would be

dragged out indefinitely and thus, would have the effect of reinforcing the status quo.)

If Turkey actually opens the border and agrees to establish diplomatic relations, it would

be taking steps in the right direction. The border closure has been illegal. Both Armenia and

Turkey’s eastern provinces will see some benefits from open borders. And Turkey will gain

some credibility as a regional leader.

Furthermore, if Turkey actually opens the border, it will signal that it no longer allows

Azerbaijan-Armenia relations to determine the nature of Turkey-Armenia relations. Such a

change would be a welcome step toward regional stability and integration.

Armenia’s challenge is to secure normal relations with Turkey while refusing to fudge on

the truth and ongoing relevance of the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey’s challenge is that it needs to go beyond its annual pre-April 24 charm offensive

and actually do something with Armenia.

The challenge for the United States is to secure results for the new foreign-affairs approach

put forth by the Obama administration. Since President Obama has made repeated and unequivocal

promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide, ignoring it is not an option.

In fulfilling his commitment, Mr. Obama would help move the relationship between Armenia

and Turkey to a new level. At that level, Turkey’s primary concern would no longer be

to find a way to avoid settled history. Rather, the shared concern would be to find ways to

move forward to a brighter future.

f

This April, read Balakian and Odian

In this first week of April, two memoirs on the Armenian Genocide appear for the first time

in the English language. Both are well worth reading, and they are best read in conjunction

with one another.

Armenian Golgotha, by the high-ranking cleric Grigoris Balakian, has been translated by

Peter Balakian with Aris Sevag, and published by Knopf. Accursed Years by the satirist Yervant

Odian, has been translated by Ara Stepan Melkonian, and published by the Gomidas

Institute.

Accounts by foreign observers in the Ottoman Empire in 1915–17 make up an important

part of the literature on the Armenian Genocide. The testimony of U.S. officials – like Consul

Jesse B. Jackson in Aleppo or Consul Oscar Heizer in Trabizon, and of missionaries like

Henry Riggs, Maria Jacobsen, and Tacy Atkinson in Harput, and Bertha B. Morley in Marsovan

– give invaluable information. The testimony of Turkish and German observers adds

an important perspective.

In an effort to prove that the Armenian Genocide is not a figment of the Armenian imagination,

some people dismiss Armenian testimony, focusing exclusively on foreign testimony

that may be seen as more “neutral.” But that is a serious mistake. The testimony of Armenian

survivors is an irreplaceable source of information and insight into the genocidal experience.

The publication of these two important memoirs in English is thus an important step.

Grigoris Balakian’s account, long available in Armenian, gives the classic story

of the Genocide. He was among the 250-odd intellectuals and community leaders

famously rounded up on April 24, 1915. He came across decimated “deportation” caravans

along his own deportation route, which allowed him to form a broader picture.

He spoke to Armenian deportees, Turkish officials, German engineers, bystanders

and participants alike. Ultimately he was able to attest to the Der Zor massacre of

1916, when tens of thousands of those who survived the deportation all the way to the

desert were killed off.

Odian’s story shows that there were many variations on the classical story of the Armenian

Genocide. The subtitle is telling: “My Exile and Return from Der Zor, 1914–1919.” Zor

was not a place Armenians typically returned from. Odian arrived there in 1917, after the Zor

massacre had run its course. His survival in a different part of Syria, which was under the

rule of Cemal Pasha, a member of the empire’s ruling triumvirate, suggests that the Young

Turk leadership was not unanimous in its approach to Armenians.

Coming to Zor after the massacre, Odian was able to see Armenian survivors who had converted

to Islam – and to note that the population did not expect them to actually participate

in religious rituals, suggesting that there was an effort to hide and protect Armenians.

This April, as we prepare to mark the 94th anniversary of the Genocide and as we take

active steps to encourage our elected officials to acknowledge the events as genocide, we

would do well also to increase our own store of knowledge. These two memoirs by prominent

Armenians are an excellent place to start.

f

The Armenian Church’s expanding role in the military

by Father Simeon Odabashian

VAGHARSHAPAT, Armenia – Some time ago

through Catholic television in the United

States, I became aware of a high level ministry

known as the Archdiocese of the Military.

This archdiocese has no geographical boundaries,

yet it has a diocesan structure with an

archbishop based in Washington and priest

chaplains stationed at every U.S. military installation,

base, warship, etc. in the world.

How pleased and proud I was to learn that

Armenia has a quickly developing Armed

Forces Chaplaincy program. In 1997 Catholicos

Karekin I appointed Father Vertanes

Abrahamian as the first chaplain of the Armenian

Army. Since that time, the program

has grown to 30 chaplains, both priests and

deacons, serving Armenia’s armed forces. At

the helm of this critical ministry is the since

elevated Bishop Vertanes Abrahamian, himself

as veteran of the Karabakh war. This

year, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos

of All Armenians, elevated the chaplaincy

program as well, and has since been granted

diocesan status. With Bishop Vertanes as its

first primate, the new Diocese of the Armenian

Armed Forces has been born.

Last week I walked into a meeting of the

chaplains and observed Bishop Vertanes at

work strategically ordering the young clergy

in his charge. My immediate thought was

that here is a spiritual general at work. In

some nations chaplains are granted military

rank.

Like its American counterpart, the Diocese

of the Armenian Armed Forces has a

unique arrangement by which its religious

jurisdiction encompasses all army bases and

military institutes in Armenia and Nagorno-

Karabakh.

According to a recent agreement between

the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the

Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanian, chaplains

are to be a permanent presence within

the life of our armed forces. In addition,

plans have been approved for the erection of

a church for the military located close to the

Ministry, where all official church/military

events will be held. This church will also meet

the spiritual needs of over 50,000 residents

in the Avan section of Yerevan.

The Ministry of Defense headquarters

complex, Armenia’s version of the Pentagon,

is a sprawling, impressive structure, which

was opened less than a year ago. With the

approval of the Defense Minister, Bishop

Vertanes has been given an office within

the Department of Human Resources. His

office will eventually be equipped with modern

telecommunications capabilities, so that

the Primate can be in frequent contact with

chaplains, via voice and video conferencing.

In the words of Colonel Rafael Tatevosian,

“Bishop Vertanes and the chaplaincy

program’s work are closely related to the

work of our department. That is why his office

is located in our section. In our military,

it is not enough to be physically fit and informed

about tactical strategies, it is even

more important to have a solid ideological,

cultural, patriotic, and religious background.

Since we are in Khorenatsi’s words, a ‘Pokr

Adzoo-Small Nation’ and are easily outnumbered,

our strength is in our ideological convictions.

Part and parcel of this is the faith of

the Apostolic Church, which is taught by the

chaplains. Our soldiers need to be informed

about historical events like the Battle of Avarayr,

for example.”

While the Armenian Apostolic Church is

the only religious presence allowed by law

in military areas, to further strengthen the

church’s presence, plans are in the works to

build small chapels on every base and military

school. Bishop Vertanes envisions “chapels

built on all of the military bases, where a

soldier will go to pray, receive a blessing and

words of encouragement from the chaplain

prior to his shift of duty. After completing

his shift he will go again to the chapel to offer

a prayer of thanks. This will help in relieving

danger-related stress.”

While the Armenian border with Turkey

is well guarded by Russian Federation forces,

the critical eastern boarder with Azerbaijan

is defended solely by Armenian troops. One

of Bishop Vertanes’ serious challenges is to

find qualified chaplains who can serve in

these most critical border areas.

So why is this religious presence so important

Chaplains offer prayer and encouragement

to the soldiers. They also provide

education on the Christian faith and

Armenian Church sacred traditions. Additionally,

they offer Christian education

at seven military schools. Bishop Vertanes

is proud of the fact that as of this year a

new uniform curriculum was adopted for

use by all chaplains, which covers the basic

teachings and history of the Armenian

Church, as well as questions of morality

and spirituality. Next year, the curriculum

Continued on page 19 m

Armenian Reporter (ISSN 0004-2358), an independent newspaper,

is published weekly by Armenian Reporter llc.

Copyright © 2009 by Armenian

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The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009 19

Commentary

Living in

Armenia

The stories we have yet to tell

by Maria Titizian

Every Armenian family has a story to tell. I

know that in my own particular family there

are many fascinating stories, treasures that

have been once told or perhaps tucked away

to be told for a later time, that are now fading

into the foggy memories of the elders of the

family. Some stories have forever been wiped

out, some have died with our grandparents.

How many times have I heard from a friend

or acquaintance that they never got around

to asking their parents or grandparents

about particular episodes in their lives that

coincided with sweeping historical events;

the stories of their lives.

I have made some weak attempts at writing

about my paternal grandfather whom

I never met, based upon a bond we shared

through letters, now long lost. About my

maternal grandparents, I have written

nothing because even while acknowledging

the significance of their lives in the

national mosaic of our people’s history, I

know very little. I know that my maternal

grandfather was born in Urfa, sent on to

the deportations with his family and ended

up in an orphanage in Aleppo. He was told

and believed that the rest of his family had

been killed.

At the age of 14, escaping from the orphanage

he makes his way to Beirut. Years

later (the details of which continue to elude

me) his older sister, who had also somehow

survived, finds him through ads placed in

Armenian newspapers of the day. They are

miraculously reunited only to be separated

once again in 1946 when his sister repatriates

to Soviet Armenia. They parted in pain

and disagreement, and never spoke to one

another again.

I met my maternal grandfather’s nephew,

his sister’s son, in Yerevan in 2001. He was

an old, broken and bitter man. Exceedingly

handsome, even at an advanced age, there

was a constant and enduring rage that emanated

from him that was at once frightening

and at once familiar. That generation,

whether in the diaspora or in the homeland,

had seen so much pain and suffering. They

had lived through abject poverty, sometimes

illiterate, with very little tools to protect

themselves against the harsh realities of

life and against the memories that tortured

them. They were survivors or children of survivors.

Their suffering did not have a voice,

rather it became a tangled knot trapped in

their bodies and often times perished along

with them.

My maternal grandmother, from Marash

also survived the Genocide but spent the

rest of her life battling the demons locked

up in her memories. When she arrived in

Canada following the outbreak of civil war in

Lebanon, she was only 58 years old but you

wouldn’t know it from looking at her. She

wore black clothes, had long white hair tied

in a tight bun at the nape of her neck and

was blissfully plump. She died before her 61st

birthday, and although surrounded by her

children she died a sad and haunted woman.

I can’t remember her ever laughing.

We have the ability, through the printed

word to relay stories that have significance

and substance. That give a voice to the suffering

of that generation. Stories which will in

their turn explain, impart, and record some

of our collective history. The content, depth

and humanity of what we write will affect

our society and our communities dispersed

throughout the world.

What we write serves as living history.

What we write from Armenia allows our

compatriots in the United States and other

parts of the world to get a glimpse, capture

an image of life in the homeland. It allows

them to be carried along with the political

and economic currents that flow through the

veins of this organism we call the motherland.

It gives you the reader, insight and empowerment.

From energy projects in the region

like the Nabucco pipeline, to Armenian-Turkish

relations, to the prospects of a peaceful

settlement of the Karabakh conflict, to the

The Armenian Church’s expanding role in the military

domestic political scene in the country, we

report on the events which shape our lives.

And we have so much to learn. We have investigated

and reported on ethnic minorities

that live in peace and harmony in Armenia.

Whether they are Assyrians, Yazidis, Greeks,

or Molokans, they have the ability to educate

their children in their native tongue and

practice their traditions unhindered. We allow

this as a nation and as a state because

we know what it means to be discriminated

against.

We learn from those who repatriated

to Armenia, whether that was during the

Great Repatriation of 1946-48 or the modern

repatriates. We report about the work

they do in the country, about their dedication

and commitment, and sometimes simply

about their everyday lives in an emerging

democracy, in a country struggling to

define itself.

But whether we write about serious issues,

or the lighter side of life, we do so in order

to share and impart issues of substance and

significance, of our shared values.

What we must do is continue to write the

stories about us, about our families, our compatriots,

our people, our nation. We must

continue to slowly weave the threads of our

individual experiences to create a living and

breathing testament to what it means to be

an Armenian today or a century ago. f

n Continued from page 18

will be further refined and modified for use

in various settings.

The primate of the military regularly inquires

regarding the chaplains’ effectiveness.

He enjoys the utmost respect of the Minister

of Defense and thanks to this, generals are

from time to time giving talks at the seminaries

to familiarize future clergy with the

spiritual needs of those serving in the military

and to be enabled to minister to their

families as well.

The chaplaincy program is not taking place

in a vacuum. There is on-going contact with

chaplaincy organizations in other countries.

For example, Bishop Vertanes will be attending

a meeting in the United Kingdom next

month, and in the near future groups will be

visiting from Greece and Russia. Though he is

quick to point out that the Armenian Church

has her own unique spiritual and cultural traditions

that must be carefully adhered to.

Historically, the Armenian Church has

been the spiritual backbone of the nation’s

defense. The role of clergy led by St. Ghevont

Yerets at the battle of Avarayr in 451 is the

most familiar. In the days of the first Armenian

Republic, priests eagerly volunteered

to join the laity in arms. In October 1918,

Archbishop Khoren Muratbekian (later

Catholicos Khoren I) proposed a pastoral

guideline for “priest soldiers.” Priests were

to serve side by side with the soldiers, wearing

their clerical attire, but never taking up

arms. Like the chaplains of today, they were

called to be a spiritual presence among their

flock and were “required with the colonel’s

arrangement to lecture soldiers during free

time regarding the Bible and national-church

history, keeping alive the knowledge of their

responsibility and love toward the nation

and national sacred treasures.” They were

also charged with teaching prayer, conducting

worship and providing opportunities for

soldiers to attend the Divine Liturgy.

Duties of today’s chaplains are not so different.

They have a significant presence on

the base, engaging the soldiers and officers in

conversation of a spiritual nature, teaching

classes, visiting and praying for those in the

infirmary and solitary confinement. Soldiers

are personally invited to attend the Divine

Liturgy in a local church.

In terms of vision, the primate would like

to see the Armenian Church be represented

on the highest level in the military and that

the clergy chaplains truly make a difference

in the military by assisting in the moral and

religious formation of every soldier. To assist

in this mission, the primate has published a

small prayer book, which will be distributed

to every soldier.

Bishop Vertanes also pointed out that

cults and other religious movements are ongoing

challenges, however, the Armenian

Church is the only religious presence, which

enjoys official recognition. No other group

is permitted to proselytize in military facilities

and Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to serve

their country. Members of other faiths are

certainly free to follow their religious convictions

and chaplains do not discriminate

against members of other churches.

After getting an overall picture of this program

from Bishop Vertanes, I wanted to see

with my own eyes our chaplains in action.

Deep down I wanted to see if their presence

made a difference or not and what sort of

reception they received.

So I visited a military base located next to

the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, where

the chaplain is Deacon Sahak Sahakian.

Regarding Deacon Sahak’s presence, Major

Karen Beglarian said, “It is of great help

and there is much need among the soldiers.

The chaplain offers classes regarding the

Apostolic Faith. Each successive generation

needs to be informed regarding our culture

and faith so they won’t be led astray. It’s very

bad when our people have no moral compass.

Thus it’s very good to have Deacon Sahak

here. On the occasion of what would have

been Sparapet Vazgen Sargsyan’s 50 th birthday,

the deacon led a group of our soldiers to

the Mother See to pray in the cathedral and

tour the museums. The army is improving

day by day. Being close to the cathedral keeps

the religion alive among the soldiers. Psychologically

this has been of benefit.”

Deacon Sahak pointed out that soldiers also

went to the Mother See for the annual observance

of Military Day on January 28. They

attended the Divine Liturgy with high-ranking

clergy, members of the Brotherhood and

the Minister of Defense. Soldiers are taught

to pray before meals and at the beginning of

classes. There are also prayerful observances

on special holidays. Deacon Sahak was also

proud of the fact that because of the proximity

of the Mother See, his soldiers have the

highest attendance rate at Divine Liturgy.

It was clear that Deacon Sahak is greatly

respected on the base. His routine includes

daily classes on the faith and traditions of

the Armenian Apostolic Church. Examples

of topics are the practices of Great Lent and

Easter, how to fight against sin and profanity

and the practice of forgiveness. During Holy

Week he will escort a group of soldiers to the

Mother See to take part in the Washing of

Feet Service.

The soldiers in his class had many questions

about the faith and the essential difference

between the Armenian Church and

other religious movements. There is great

concern about cults whose followers refuse

to serve in the army and in the defense of the

Bishop Vertanes Abrahamian with soldiers from Armenian Armed Forces.

nation. Some felt that these movements are

set on infiltrating the nation and may have

certain connections with foreign powers.

To the question does having a chaplain

make a difference, one soldier, Razmik Astryan,

responded, “His presence changes a

soldier’s life. Attending church is very positive.

We are helped to sin less.”

My interest also led me to the Marshal Armenak

Ghamparyantz Air Force Institute

with Deacon Michael Barsaeghyan, who was

recently appointed as its first chaplain. Similar

to chaplains serving on bases, his role is

first and foremost to impart the Christian

faith to the cadets both through classes as

well as via personal encounters. His presence

in the institute has been warmly received by

not only the commander, but by staff and

cadets alike.

In Deacon Michael’s words, “I keep all

my encounters on a strictly official level. I

have an excellent relationship with the commander

and officers and can say that I have

in a very short time earned their respect.

I try to do my best. I bring in interesting

movies and am working with AR TV station

to prepare programs on the Armenian army

and Marshal Baghramian. I am also planning

a group baptism for cadets, who have

not yet been baptized. My dream is to have

a chapel on the grounds of the institute,

where we can celebrate the Divine Liturgy,

light candles, pray and meditate. Something

that we have introduced is prayer before

meals. Soldiers often approach me with

prayer requests and questions about the

faith.” He also feels that this work is very

rewarding and will help him to be a more

effective priest in the future.

The assistant to the Commander of the

institute, Colonel Zaven Hakobjanyan

shared that “in the past religion was absent

here, but now we are very happy that Deacon

Michael is here. We feel his spiritual presence

and we observe him to be passionate about

his work. He is truly concerned about the

fruit of his labors. The Mother See has truly

blessed us with this program. The cooperation

between the Mother See and the military

is very healthy.”

Without any hesitation, it can be said the

Armenian Apostolic Church is making great

strides in meeting the spiritual and pastoral

needs of those serving in the military forces

in the Armenian Republic. The following illustrates

how this presence is truly moving

the souls of servicemen.

During my visit to Bishop Vertanes’ office,

a young soldier entered inquiring about being

baptized. The primate warmly welcomed

him, gave him a New Testament and a small

wood cross and encouraged him to return

when they could further discuss the meaning

of baptism and arrange for the sacrament.

When I asked the primate if this was a common

occurrence, he responded that the more

our Church’s presence grows, the more we

see this phenomenon of people (especially

the young) reaching out for the saving sacraments

of God.

f


20 The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009


The Armenian Reporter | April 4, 2009

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