Mistress of ceremonies Sevan Der Bedrosian introducing Professor Richard Hovannisian

Dr. Hovannisian Lectures at Altadena Tekeyan Center on Ramgavar Party Airplanes Purchase for First Republic


By Kevork Keushkerian

ALTADENA, Calif. — The Tekeyan Cultural Association Metro Los Angeles Chapter on May 1 hosted a very informative lecture titled “Arms for Armenia: The Matter of Airplanes – The Attempted Purchase of Surplus British Royal Air Force Fighter Planes for the First Republic of Armenia by the Constitutional Ramgavar Party of Egypt,” at the Tekeyan Center’s Beshgeturian Hall. The keynote speaker was Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian, past holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Presidential Fellow at Chapman University.

Richard Hovannisian

Mistress of Ceremonies Sevan Der Bedrossian welcomed the guests on behalf of the chapter and invited Dr. Raffi Balian and Mayor Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian to address the audience.

Balian, chairman of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party’s Western Regional Committee, congratulated the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) on its 75th anniversary and noted that the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL or “Ramgavar”) will be celebrated this June in Yerevan.

Kassakhian, the newly elected mayor of Glendale, mentioned that Hovannisian was his teacher at UCLA. He then praised Hovannisian for writing books on the Armenian Genocide. He further noted that during the years of the first Republic of Armenia, there was a pandemic in Armenia similar to the one now.

Der Bedrossian then took to the podium and gave a brief introduction about Hovannisian, who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, before receiving his doctorate from UCLA.

Mayor of Glendale Ardashes Kassakhian offering his remarks

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Hovannisian has authored or edited more than 30 books on the first Republic of Armenia, the Armenian Genocide and Western Armenia. His latest book, about the Armenian communities of Iran, is dedicated to his late wife, Dr. Vartiter Hovannisian.

Hovannisian augmented his lecture with a slide show. He first presented the First Republic of Armenia, where political parties were bitterly divided, animosity prevailed and trust was at a premium.

The rift was apparent in the European Congress in Paris where Armenia had two representatives who did not agree with one another. Boghos Nubar Pasha was appointed by Catholicos of All Armenians Kevork V, whereas poet Avedis Aharonian was appointed by Hovhannes Katchaznouni, the prime minister of Armenia.

In 1919, the Armenian National Congress beseeched the Allied Powers to fulfill their commitment to help them, but unfortunately the Western Powers did not often back their promises. In 1920, the Allied Powers finally agreed to send arms to Armenia with the stipulation that Armenia would not only pay the cost, but interest as well. This is where the Constitutional Democrat [Ramgavar] Party of Egypt comes into the picture.

ADL Western District Committee chairman Dr. Raffi Balian offering his remarks

Vahan Malezian, on behalf of this party, negotiated with the British commander in charge, General Edmund Allenby, to buy surplus British Air Forces fighter planes for the Republic of Armenia. Unfortunately, the Defense and the Treasury Departments of the British government did not agree with the British Foreign Office and thus the sale of the fighter planes was delayed, without final approval, until November of 1920, when Armenia reluctantly joined the Soviet Union.

Upon the conclusion of the presentation, Mihran Toumajan presented Hovannisian with the book, A Legacy of Armenian Treasures, published by the Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum in Detroit.

Later, the question-and-answer session was followed by the traditional reception.

This was an eye-opening experience for this writer because I did not know of the role of the Ramgavar Party in trying to help the First Republic of Armenia. It is very refreshing to know indeed that even then, there was some kind of unity between rival parties for the greater purpose of assisting the homeland.


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