Was Soviet Armenia Not the Second Republic of Armenia?

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(In Memory of Ara Caprielian)

By Hagop Vartivarian

It is not possible to divide the homeland by means of time or land. Its eternal nature is intrinsic to the concept of homeland. One way to abase it is to oppose Soviet Armenia to today’s independent Armenia. Armenia is ours in all periods of time, and we are Armenia’s.

During the days of the first Republic of Armenia when autocracy was established in the country, the greatest amount of assistance came from the circles of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party and Armenian General Benevolent Union (as Alexander Khatisian cited in his memoirs). In the Soviet period, when the pro-Armenia front enjoyed the monopoly of serving as a bridge between Armenia and the diaspora, that bridge was for everybody—for all factions and all denominations. Today, when the doors of independent Armenia are opened wide in front of everybody, no one enjoys a privileged position.

During all periods, when intense factionalism dominated, true patriots were still close to one another, if not unconditional collaborators.

One of those true patriots was Ara Caprielian, whose passing away has left a great gap in our community life.

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Our friendship on a personal level was reinforced by our shared belief in the eternity of the homeland.

It was the karasunk [40th day requiem services] for that noted New York Armenian political and educational figure, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) member Dr. Ara Caprielian. Our spiritual and intellectual friendship goes back at least 35 years, to those days when I newly had come to live in New York. He was already well known in this community as part of the leadership of the ARF.

In those days, cultural ties with Soviet Armenia were entrusted to the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA). All our intellectuals, literary critics and artists visiting from the homeland would have their events here under the patronage of the TCA. In that period, I was serving as chairman of the TCA branch of greater New York. We generally held our events and encounters with guests from Armenia at St. Vartan Cathedral’s Kavoukjian Hall on Second Avenue in Manhattan, at the Diocesan headquarters. The visitors included Silva Kaputikyan, Sero Khanzadyan, Shake Varsyan, Mher Mkrtchyan, Lusine Zakaryan, Vardges Petrosyan, Raisa Mkrtchyan, and Bella Tarpinyan, Hovhannes Badalyan, Hrant Matevosyan, Shahen Khachatryan, Hakob Hakobyan, and Grigor Khanjyan. What sweet days those were, when Armenian music, literature and culture were genuine, and this during the Soviet period.

Ara, as an ARF member, like some other intellectuals, including Dr. Hrant Markarian, Rouben Barsoumian, Aris Sevag and Jirayr Attarian, were present at all the encounters we organized, and after the formal events, wanted to join us in our social gatherings. We frequently and openheartedly accepted them in our midst out of respect for their intellectual talent.

Our guests from Armenia, however, were cautious in consideration of their anti-Soviet politics, and were opposed to their participation. Their motivation was understandable.

In any case, I always created opportunities to entertain them at my house so that they could express their feelings without constraint. Many of the intellectuals from Armenia were guests in my home, sometimes even for weeks at a time. Among the visitors to my house was my recently deceased kind friend Ara.

In this way, the years passed, and Armenia came to have its third republic, immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We now had an Armenia born on the foundations of Soviet Armenia. This was a Soviet Armenia which during the Great Patriotic War—World War II—exhibited its martial prowess, an Armenia which founded an Academy of Sciences, an Armenia which built Tsitsernakaberd, an Armenia which recognized the Battle of Sardarabad, and finally, an Armenia which triumphantly advanced by means of its science, art and national culture. It was this Armenia over which our third republic assumed control.

I often spoke with Ara about this matter, and he finally accepted that it was Soviet Armenia which gave us diasporan Armenians national pride through its population of over three million. This was during our last conversation, which took place in the ARF’s Armenian Center in New York, and then we parted. His widow Arevik, a true daughter of Armenia, would justly assess all this.

I was about to leave for Africa when I received word of his death. However, I felt it my duty as a friend to be present at the karasunk. I entered the church early in the morning.

Two things amazed me after the memorial service—truly. The first was something which I had often heard from others: the mention of Aram I of the See of Cilicia as Catholicos of All Armenians. The second was the declaration of Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, for whom I have always had great respect, that today’s republic was built on the foundations of the first republic, itself born on May 28, 1918. What happened, my dear Reverend Father, to Soviet Armenia, with its over 70 years of achievements?

He of course is repeating the position of the political party which patronizes and leads his church. Not to recognize Soviet Armenia is to cast dishonor on the noble character of our nation.

I am sure that Ara would have refused to accept such a declaration. Despite the fact that during the years of the Cold War he was an adherent of the ideology asserting that the Soviet order was injurious to Armenia’s national aspirations, national consciousness and patriotic spirit, he had accepted the reality of Soviet Armenia at the twilight of its life.

At the beginning of a new century, we find ourselves at a turning point. Let us be prudent and careful, and not turn back to a new Cold War…because we know that contrary to slogans of joint struggle, some organizations again want to establish hegemony over the Armenian diaspora in order to show the authorities in the homeland that they are the masters abroad. They are sorely mistaken.

They still have not been able to gage the feelings of that majority of the people which remains firmly attached to the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin and its dioceses, and also to those noble organizations which remained as patriotic and faithful to the first republic, as to the second and the third.

The first Republic of Armenia was born on May 28, 1918 only because of the collapse of the Seym. The second republic was born as a result of the collapse of the first. The third republic was born due to the collapse of the Soviet republic.

Ara knew all this very well.

(Translated from the Armenian)

 

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