Fadey Sargsyan (photo Artin Cavouk, Canada)

Fadei Sargsyan: The Armenian High-Tech Engine


By Ruben Mirzakhanyan

The director of the Yerevan Research Institute of Mathematical Machines, General Fadey Sargsyan, together with the director of the Yerevan Brandy Factory, Mikhail G. Khanoyan, undertook and carried out an operation unprecedented in its audacity and courage in Soviet times, the secret, unauthorized removal of the Armenian khachkars or cross-stones of Julfa from the border zone in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan.

These khachkars of the largest surviving medieval cemetery in the world were already declared to be Caucasian Albanian by Azerbaijanis and were loaded by the Azerbaijani authorities onto a truck with Armenian numbers for further destruction. These were the khachkars that were included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

General Fadey Sargsyan in Meghri, Armenia

Did Fadey Sargsyan foresee that years later, in 2006, there would be no remnants of the cemetery, the remaining thousands of khachkars would be demolished, and the Azerbaijani authorities would forbid the commission of the European Parliament to inspect the historic Armenian cemetery? We will never know. Nevertheless, what led Fadey Sargsyan, the director of the most secret and significant scientific research institute in Armenia, at that time to risk losing everything. I think, in fact I am relatively sure, it was his patriotism, boundless love for his own people, and a sense of responsibility towards his ancestors and descendants. The biblical name Fadey (Thaddeus) was given to Sargsyan in honor of his grandfather – the clergyman Father Tatevos, the spiritual pastor of the Nakhichevan diocese who was a recipient of various governmental awards of the Russian Empire. What a unique power of succession! How great is the sense of duty among outstanding people!

Early Successes

Fadey Sargsyan, whose centenary will be celebrated on September 18, 2023, was born in Yerevan to a large family of utterly modest material resources. After graduating from high school in 1940, he entered the construction department of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute. Sargsyan always distinguished himself academically at school, the institute, and the Academy. One year later, he was admitted to the Leningrad Military Electrotechnical Academy. Having brilliantly passed the exams for the second year as an external student (there was a condition: only those who completed at least the second year could be students of the Academy), the future general became a cadet. The war broke out. The Academy moved to Tomsk.

Fadey Sargsyan, right, with his older brother Gevorg Sargsyan, at the front, August 1944

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In July 1943, with the rank of lieutenant-technician, Sargsyan was sent to the military front. He served in a separate communications battalion of the 36th Rifle Corps of the 31st Soviet Army. Then, he continued his studies at the Academy. Out of the 44 cadets who came from Armenia, five graduated from the Academy. Among the four students, Lieutenant Sargsyan was awarded a personal scholarship, and there were legends about the engineering talent of the young scientist. In 1946, the 23-year-old officer was sent to Moscow to serve in the Main Artillery Directorate, the USSR Ministry of Defense’s Radar Department. During the most challenging years of the war, Sargsyan received an excellent engineering education. His mentors included the outstanding scientists Mikhail Kontorovich, Nikolai Krylov, Nikolai Izyumov and Alexander Arenberg.

Fadey Sargsyan, left, with Marshall Hovhannes Baghramyan

Sargsyan and the best specialists in this field were engaged in developing and implementing radar technology and designing and manufacturing essential radio engineering products. A talented, hardworking scientist, he soon became the scientific secretary and deputy head of the Department of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR. The years between 1946 and 1959 – the period of service of Sargsyan in Moscow within the Ministry of Defense – were filled with significant successes in the most critical areas of scientific and technological development and discoveries of absolute significance. It is no coincidence that Sargsyan writes in his memoirs that these 13 years of work at the Main Artillery Directorate were the most eventful in his life. After the well-known crisis in Soviet – Chinese relations, no one wrote about Sargsyan’s work trip to China as an air defense adviser in 1953 during the Korean issues. Without going into details, we note that Marshal Zhu De twice presented state awards of the People’s Republic of China to senior officer Sargsyan.

Yerevan Research Institute of Mathematical Machines

In the second half of the 1950s, the Yerevan Research Institute of Mathematical Machines was established. The basis for the decision was the significant achievements of the mathematical school in Armenia. The Institute aimed to create electronic computing technology for vast and comprehensive applications in developing control and informatics tools. However, the most important, and we might also say promising, manifestation of the ongoing changes was the development of those areas of science and technology in which the “leader of the Soviet nation” did not believe. Moreover, they were the future.

So, the Yerevan Scientific Research Institute of Mathematical Machines eventually became the center of scientific and technical progress, leading the intellectual development of Armenia, including the educationally. It is no coincidence that later, when heads of foreign states and important delegations came to Armenia, along with cultural centers, they were necessarily taken to the Institute as proof of the highest scientific achievements of the country. The Yerevan Institute of Mathematical Machines earned that trust due to the organizational talent of Academician Sargsyan.

Fadey Sargsyan with Indira Gandhi, in the courtyard of Yerevan’s Mathematical Machines Research Institute

When the institute was founded, the position of acting director was entrusted to the brilliant mathematician Sergei Mergelyan, who never became the institution’s director. Gurgen Sargsyan took his place instead. In 1963, Fadey Sargsyan became the head of this Institute.

The Institute did not develop large-scale activities in the first years of its activity. The team was formed from talented specialists. However, squabbles, intrigues, and internal fractions had not allowed the necessary work: the result had been frequent turnovers of leadership. With the arrival of Sargsyan as director, the situation changed qualitatively. The team became integrated, carrying out unique projects and achieving globally highlighted results. An integral part of the director’s organizational talent was exceptional human qualities, the ability to find an individual approach to each person, professional competence and great kindness, combined with punctuality and discipline. Fadey Sargsyan paid particular attention to the social aspect of the team’s life. Employees received the highest salaries in Armenia and were provided with apartments and everything else necessary. A team of thousands honored their leader.

The Institute created the USSR’s first semiconductor-based computers of the second generation – “Hrazdan-2” and “Hrazdan-3” – followed by machines of the third generation – “Nairi.” The Americans qualified “Nairi” as an advanced computer that reduced the gap existing with their computers. The computer of the single series – ES-1045 and the computer complex VK-1045 was considered a colossal achievement. The creators were awarded the Lenin and other state prizes, and among them was Sargsyan. The names of prominent designers Arman Kuchukyan, Hrachik Hovsepyan, Mnatsakan Buniatyan, German Ohanyan, Aram Geoletsyan, Robert Atoyan, Yuri Shukuryan and their teams were marked in golden letters in the history of the Armenian people. They all lived and worked in Armenia, and back then, the cutting-edge computers were called “Nairi” and “Hrazdan.” Comments are superfluous.

Head of the Soviet Armenian Government

In 1977, Sargsyan was appointed chair of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia. He was the head of the government for twelve years.

The country’s leader during this period was the outstanding statesman Karen Demirchyan. Sargsyan was well-known and respected in Moscow. Among his friends were Soviet ministers, marshals and generals, with whom he worked directly. However, the choice of Demirchyan even more decisive. Demirchyan’s Armenia enjoyed a time of unprecedented economic, educational and cultural upsurge. A considerable number of facts and figures support that assertion. We limit ourselves to only two: if in 1970 there were seven significant production associations in Armenia, then ten years later their number increased tenfold – there were 77 of them. Sixty to eighty new schools were built and opened annually during this period.

The president of the Council of Ministers was involved in the most critical areas. Sargsyan was the chief of personnel for the construction of the Yerevan Metro. He was responsible for constructing the Sports and Concert Complex, reconstructing the Opera House, and developing the entire infrastructure of the republic’s economy.

We would like to touch briefly upon the relationship between the state and the Armenian Church. The atheistic state, one of the ideological foundations of which was the rejection of God, in the period of its foundation and decades of development, persecuted the Church and its ministers in every possible way. In Armenia, several clergy members were murdered, and churches were liquidated during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (World War II).

Fadey Sargsyan, left, with Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I, center, and a high level official of the USSR

The attitude towards the Church became more tolerant in subsequent years, but the ideological confrontation continued. In Armenia in the ‘70s-‘80s, despite the instructions dictated by the centralized power, the leaders of the country were aware of the role of the Armenian Apostolic Church as an essential institution for national identity. The president of the Council of Ministers, Sargsyan, was the one who primarily dealt with it. He periodically met with Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I and resolved pending issues. It is no coincidence that of the two resolutions of the highest authorities of the Soviet Union adopted in the post-war period concerning Armenia, one was about insufficient atheistic work in the republic.

Fadey Sargsyan with Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II

In the future, the relationship between Sargsyan and the Church in the period of Armenian independence, acquired a new quality, especially during the reign of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. Here is what the latter wrote: “We have been communicating with Mr. Sargsyan with joy and love since his work as president of the Council of Ministers of the Republic. We loved and respected him as a worthy person, the son of the Armenian people, devoted to the precepts of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He inherited this spirit, apparently, from his grandfather, a priest whose name he proudly bore. When we invited Mr. Sargsyan to participate in the celebrations concerning the founding of six churches, he acted as a godfather and proudly highlighted that he was the grandson of a priest.”

President of the National Academy of Sciences

In 1993, Fadey Sargsyan was elected president of the National Academy of Sciences of the independent Republic of Armenia. One of his main tasks was to preserve the Academy to the extent possible. The attitude of the new authorities differed drastically from the realities of the Soviet era: the role of the Academy and science in the state structure changed. Sargsyan, using his own connections outside Armenia, achieved several agreements on scientific cooperation between the Academy of Sciences and foreign scientific centers. His efforts brought about sponsors who also supported the Academy. Nevertheless, all this was not enough. Furthermore, the state of affairs that developed during this period in the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, and even now, suggests that the national government continually thinks that something should be reformed, but in reality it should do nothing.

Fadey Sargsyan, left, with President of the Armenian General Benevolent Union Alex Manoogian

To completely deny and misunderstand what was created in the past threatens to lead to the collapse of the most important national institutions. The outstanding statesman Fadey Sargsyan realized this.

Fadey Sargsyan, left, with the president of London’s Royal Society Michael Atiyah

Here is what Academician Samvel Shukuryan wrote about Fadey Sargsyan: “His merits in the development of high technologies, electronics, computer technology and informatics in Armenia are tremendous and undeniable. He was the first to realize the need to create an appropriate and continuously updated technological and financial infrastructure, and he did a lot for this.

Fadey Sargsyan with Boris Piotrovski, center rear, and the latter’s wife, Hripsime Janpoladyan

“This infrastructure not only functioned successfully for decades but also contributed in every possible way to the growth and development of engineering talents and innovative thinking in Armenia. Consequently, now about 25 thousand people in Armenia are successfully working in the field of high technologies.”

I would like to conclude this article about Fadey Sargsyan with the phrase authored by the great Lithuanian poet Eduardas Mezhelaitis: “He took the tasks of each individual close to heart.”

(Ruben Mirzakhanyan is the president of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of Armenia, doctor of history and professor.)

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