AGBU of Montreal Rescues Armenian Astronomical Society

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MONTREAL — Following the declaration of Armenia’s independence in 1991, the Armenian National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), like many other scientific and academic institutions, fell on hard times due to the drastic reduction in the level of government support. As a  result, last year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had seriously considered terminating the membership of Armenian Astronomical Society (AAS), which hadn’t paid its membership dues for the previous five years, amounting to $22,000.

In the past, the IAU had waived Armenia’s membership fees up to 2002. In 2007, one year before the centennial of Victor Hampartsoumian, former ANAS president and internationally recognized astrophysicist, Armenia’s membership was in danger of suspension, as the dues had not been paid for a period of five years. At that time, the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, which is the AAS’s center located in the town of same name, Armenian province of Aragatzotn, succeeded in paying the dues for the year
2003 with the help of VivaCell, a mobile communications company in Armenia. In 2008, the IAU once again informed the AAS that all its membership dues had to be paid in order for it to remain a member. The IAU’s triennial general assembly was to take place at the beginning of August 2009 in Rio de Janeiro, and Armenia received a final notice in June 2009, whereby all arrears had to be paid
by July 31, 2009, and failure to pay by this date would result in the suspension of AAS’s membership.

On July 19, 2009, young community activist Chahé Tanachian, a graduate of AGBU Armen-Quebec Alex Manoogian School and chairman of the AGBU Manuel Keusseyan Armenological Studies Program, made a plea to help prevent Armenia’s suspension from IAU. One of the first persons to respond was Armineh Garabedian, president of GlobVision, Inc. from Montreal. She pledged to pay the full amount for the year 2004 and her donation was the first payment that was transferred and reached the IAU before the July 31, 2009 deadline. Then, with the intervention of ANAS President Radik Martirossian, the dues for the year 2008 were also paid
before the deadline. At this point, four years of dues remained to be paid.

Despite AAS’s tangible attempt to pay off its arrears, during the IAU’s triennial assembly at the beginning of August 2009, it seemed, nevertheless, like the Executive Committee was still going to discuss Armenia’s membership suspension issue and also most likely to refuse to financially sponsor the upcoming summer 2010 International School of Young Astronomers to be held at the Byurakan Observatory. The ensuing intervention came at the highest level. The prime minister of Armenia himself instructed his minister of science and education, Armen Ashodian, to resolve this matter immediately. Through the minister, the Executive Committee
members of the IAU were informed that Armenia would pay all of its remaining back dues within a period of one week. Based on this information and the fact that some payments had already been made to the IAU account, the Executive Committee withdrew Armenia’s membership issue from their current agenda and also agreed to reconsider sponsorship of the 2010 International Summer
School for Young Astronomers in Armenia.

In the meantime, dozens of individuals graciously responded to Tanachian’s appeal. In addition, one organization, the Armen Karo Student Association, agreed to donate the equivalent of one full year’s membership fee. All in all, the contributions amounted to $10,000, and this sum was transferred by AGBU directly to the IAU account. By the end of August 2009, Armenia transferred the remaining two years’ dues to the IAU, thereby completing all payments up to 2009.

Thus, Armenia once again became a fully instated member of the International Astronomical Union. Thankfully, the Armenian government has now agreed to pay the AAS’s membership dues to the IAU, as required.

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