Guest Speaker Lernik Hovhannisyan Discusses Artsakh
By Berj Gueyikian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Chicago “Christapor” Gomideh organized an evening in celebration of the 98th anniversary of the independence of Armenia on June 4 at the Shahnasarian Hall of the Armenian Community Center. The guest speaker was Lernik Hovhannisyan from Artsakh, who is a member of Artsakh’s Parliament.
The evening started with the Homenetmen scouts marching in with the flags of the United States, Armenia, Artsakh, and the ARF. They then sang the national anthems of the U.S. and Armenia.
In her remarks about the Sardarabad, Bash Abaran, and Karakilise battles, Maral Abrahamian, the event’s MC, said that after 600 years of living under foreign rule, Armenia declared its independence on May, 28, 1918.
Next, she invited Raffi Killian to give an update about the Arajamugh project, which is being spearheaded by the Armenian Cultural Association of America (ACAA) Artsakh Committee. Killian discussed the importance of increasing the population of territories that are located in border regions such as Arajamugh.
He said the project proposes to build an additional 32 single-family houses in the Arajamugh village. The Artsakh Committee is soliciting donations to underwrite the cost of this project. He noted that the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) has committed to funding the extension of electricity and water lines to the newly built houses.
Following his presentation, Loucine Kendimian-Tokmakjian performed Arno Babajanian’s “Vagharshabad Dance” on the piano.
Abrahamian next invited the guest speaker, who addressed the audience in Armenian, and she asked Vazken Aivazian to act as translator.
Hovhannisyan said in his remarks that the independence of Armenia in 1918 is paramount in our modern history because without that first republic we would not have today’s independent Armenia and without Armenia we would not have the Republic of Artsakh.
The recent aggression by Azerbaijan against Artsakh was not unexpected, but it was not previously clear when such an attack would take place. Tensions had been building since August 2014, when there was a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of skirmishes along the border. However, the fierce attack on April 1 occurred on many fronts. Our soldiers fought bravely and repulsed the enemy, and despite being outnumbered we suffered relatively few casualties, he said.
Responding to a question about the activities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, Hovhannisyan said that there is disappointment with the Minsk Group and their policy of maintaining a false parity for responsibility for the violence between the Armenians and the Azeris. This latest act of aggression by Azerbaijan has changed the dynamics of the situation, he said. The Minsk Group must now review its position and come up with new recommendations and proposals—and Artsakh must be part of the negotiations.
Following his presentation, a video was screened which talked about the dedication and bravery of the Artsakh soldiers.
At the conclusion of the evening, Father Ghevont Pentezian of the Armenian All Saints Church offered his remarks. Father Pentezian noted that May 28, 1918 marked the first time in 600 years that the Armenians had their own state. He stated that this achievement was brought about through the efforts of a 28-year-old youth, referring to the ARF which was formed 28 years earlier in 1890. He concluded his remarks by asking Hovhannisyan to convey the Chicago community’s message of support to the people of Artsakh and to tell them that we are with them all the way.
Following the presentation, members of the audience were invited to taste a selection of Armenian beers and brandies.
On Sun., June 5, there was a special flag blessing service at the Armenian All Saints Church to mark the 98th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. The newly blessed tricolor flag was marched out of the church by a combined AYF and Homenetmen honor guard, followed by a procession led by Father Pentezian and Sarkis Peltekian, who served as the godfather for the ceremony. Peltekian then raised the flag as the church choir led those assembled in the singing of “Mer Hairenik.”