Open Letter from Hirair Hovnanian to Gerry Cafesjian


As I look back to the years wasted by the multiple lawsuits that you initiated against the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial (AGMM) and the Armenian Assembly, I note that today you are at the same exact point you were in 2006 when you were in control of the project. At that time, the other AGMM Board Members acquiesced to your plan with our votes.

The Armenian Genocide Museum building in D.C.

I chose to write to you in this open forum only after being silent throughout this entire trial, even though you used your media sources to constantly spread false information and mean spirited articles about me during the trial.

As I have said many times, the motivation for my involvement with the project is my belief that building a genocide museum in our nation’s capital is a noble endeavor for the Armenian people.

Now that you have fought so hard to have all the properties and thus absolute control over the project, it is my hope that you are truly committed to dedicating these properties to the building of an Armenian Genocide museum, as you had promised the judge and the Armenian people. It is my hope that this project will not suffer the same fate as did the grand vision you had for your art museum in Yerevan which remains to this day unrealized, and that you are even more motivated to complete the genocide museum on the grand $200 million scale that you have so often spoken about.

Although you were unwilling to guarantee during litigation that these properties will be used solely for a museum, you have an obligation to the Armenian people to build this genocide museum in accordance with the vision initially espoused and without any conditions. If you had been willing to guarantee this, I may have been able to convince all interested parties to agree not to file an appeal.

Hirair Hovnanian

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. I really hope the art museum in Yerevan gets built.  It was supposed to be complete already and would be a big boost for both tourism in Armenia and art fans of Hayastan.

    The genocide museum in DC I never really understood.  I just can’t imagine who is going to go to it, and in what numbers.  The Armenian community there is not that large, and in a city that is overflowing with museums, how many will have time or desire to see this one?  We do need a world class museum on the genocide, but that too probably belongs in Yerevan.  If it must be built in the Diaspora, then perhaps LA is a better venue.  I know it doesn’t have the political connection that DC has, but it has the second largest Armenian Diaspora community outside of Moscow, and by far the most diverse and probably wealthy one.  Putting it in Hollywood’s Little Armenia, or in Glendale would give it a community life.  It’s probably way too late for this consideration, but just wanted to get that off of my chest.

    And while I’m on a roll here, we need to take on another task that would be amazing for Armenia.  The Gulbenkian Foundation.  The top art museum in Lisbon, Portugal is the Gulbenkian Museum, and much of the collection is not on display because museums never have the space to display their entire collections.  I think there is no question that it would have been Gulbenkian’s desire to display much of his collection in Armenia if it had been independent at the time he died.  It has been 20 years now that Armenia is independent and we need to convince the Gulbenkian Foundation that they should carry out what he would have wanted, and build a second Gulbenkian Museum in Yerevan.  Why not let the museum have two locations?  The cost of building and running a branch Armenia will be much less than in Portugal, and the reach of the museum would be much extended.

  2. Armenians are profoundly embarrassed by this dissent. Unfortunately,
    many things continue to divide us, but we speak with one voice when we say that
    we all yearn for this museum to be built in time for our 2015 commemoration. Our
    1.5 million murdered ancestors deserve a large scale public monument that
    shouts out what was done to them to the world.

  3. Armenians in America may be misguided as Raffi suggests.  Money and energy should be poured into strengthening Armenia and her diplomatic and economic relations.  Intentions are good, but now that Armenia is independent, we should no longer invest so much into institutions in America.  A free Armenia was always our goal.  We have it!  Though, it is small and struggling, it is ours and we should do what we can to help our republic.  I am not against a museum being built in Washington, but we should consider where money is needed most and keep things balanced.

    Cafesjian and Hovnanian are both wrong to have failed to compromise for the good of the nation.  It is time for them to swallow their pride and come together for Armenia’s sake.  Build this museum already, but don’t build monuments to yourselves!  Remember who and what you are trying to serve.

    Hrair, what are you trying to accomplish?

  4. I don’t understand this.
    So Hovnanian is filing an appeal because Cafesjian didn’t assure him that he would actually build a museum?  So if Cafesjian had promised Hovnanian that the museum would be built, he would not have filed an appeal?
    Shows that Hovnanian doesn’t think he actually has a chance of winning the appeal.  Shows that the appeal is just being done to delay and derail the project.
    I am so glad I stopped giving the AAA money many years ago,.

  5. How many millions will be spent on establishing, then maintaining the museum? Wouldn’t it be better to spend those millions of dollars on strengthening Armenia through any project – health, education, jobs etc. – instead of building a museum that will be seen only by a very-very tiny minority of visitors to Washington, DC? Spend a fraction of that and establish an online museum or spend the money on bringing over scholars and politicians to Armenia and we will get a much better return on the amount to be invested on a museum.

  6. Jirayr, Vagharshak: far more people go to Washington than to Yerevan. far more. Millions  attend  the many public museums in the area this one is planned for in Washington.  Believe it or not, millions of people internationally come to Washington every year for vacation simply to go to those public museums around the White House. Millions of people attend all the public museums when they go to Washington on business. Millions of students are taken on class room museum visits by their teachers. Do not underestimate the number of people internationaly who have a great interest today in genocide and holocaust studies. To not have a presence in the USA is ridiculous. From all reports, in this column and elsewhere, Diaspora Armenians face far too many roadblocks whenever they try to do something constructive in Armenia, whether commercial or humanitarian. talk is easy, but reality is often different.  This museum is in a perfect location. We just need everyone to take a deep breath and put our common cause of recognition and repatriation by the perpetrators ahead of everything else. We need to tell our history to the world, and we need to tell it in a world-class country. That country is not yet Armenia.

  7. To answer Jirair, I see no problem with spending money on a museum in washington–if it is well run.  The online can be an adjunct to the physical.  The problem here is that we have two very wealthy children who have allowed their egos to get in the way of the greater good of the Armenian people and humanity as a whole.  Meanwhile, thank goodness, we already have a very worthy Armenian Genocide Museum and Institute in Yerevan that is doing great work.     

  8. Perouz, I support the creation of this museum in Washington for the reasons you highlight, but I advocate a greater emphasis on supporting our fledgling republic, as well.

  9. Here is a list of museums in DC already:,_D.C.

    I would like to think that loads of non-Armenian visitors would put the Armenian Genocide Museum on their list of museums to visit, but I just doubt the numbers are going to be very high, especially considering there is already a National Holocaust Museum, which most people will no doubt prefer to visit.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that the exhibits are so incredibly compelling that the word gets out, but realistically I just don’t see more than a trickle of visitors finding their way to such a museum, and spending such a vast amount of money on it would be wasted if it can’t get the visitors.  I would also hate for it to become yet another Armenian “cause” that does fundraising every year in order to keep going.

    Spend $5 million on a website/museum the likes of which the world has never seen, and you may reach many many more people than the 200 million dollar brick-and-mortar museum.

    Just some thoughts…

  10. the reason millions of people go to Washington museums is because there are many of them in one area. this is seen as more bang for the tourist buck. Tourist areas that are in proximity to many events or attractions draw more people. Who gets on an airplane and books a hotel just to go to one or two museums? If internet is so compelling, why do you think billions are spent for the maintenance of exhibits in Washington? It’s because millions prefer to attend brick and mortar buildings. The make-believe world of the internet will never match real life experience. Put Ani or Geghard on the internet all you want, and it will never equal actually being there.  I also don’t agree that more people will necessarily go to the Holocaust museum. Their narrative is already very familiar to many people. There will be a great deal of interest in an Armenian Genocide museum because it is not as familiar a history to many people.  After all, when your time is limited, where do you go? Somewhere where you are already familiar with the narrative? Or somewhere where there is an opportunity to learn more, to see what you do not know anything, or very little about? Students will attend our museum. It is fresh material for their papers. Don’t underestimate the world’s willingness to hear us. We just have to get speaking louder. And in unison. Location is a done deal. A good one at that. let’s move on. Let’s get together and let both sides know that we want this much needed museum to happen.

  11.  The genocide museum in Washington was and is a noble objective. The current situation is most unfortunate primarily because it breeds cynacism in our community. The litigation will settle, the museum will be eventually be built and the powers may even reconcile; but it adds another example of public displays of disunity; which keeps others on the sidelines. It alos unfortunate that the AAA has taken a credibility hit because I beleive they have done some good advocacy work in our community ; but seem to be struggling currently. What we don’t need is the typical parochial Armenian behavior of piling on the Assembly publically. Let nature take it’s course. If their policies align with the needs of our community; then a recovery may be in their future. Lining up behind the ANCA or AAA do nothing for our people… just like the old Ramgavar ,Hunchakianand Dashnag adversarial events of the 40s – 70s accomplished little except create the artificial boundaries we have today. Support the vehicle because it serves the end.

  12. Is this the same Hovnanian who is financing that boondoggle in Yerevan called St. Ana’s Church on Abovyan Street?

    Hovnanian and the Catholicos are on the same page when it comes to self-aggrandizement.

    Anything goes, just as long as individuals like Hovnanian and oytehrs can get the names memoralized in stone for all eternity.

  13. Raffi, I see that the Genocide Museum, for all the world to know, and see, belongs in Haiastan… having suffered the first Genocides of the 20th century, via the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation.  Too, for all those nations who, too, suffered the
    horrors of slaughters, rapes, tortures, and worse by the perpetrators of Genocide… ( but Darfurians and Kurds still  suffer the Turkeys/Sudanese still today in the 21st century). There shall come a time when peoples of like minds will seek to end the cycle of Genocides. There shall com a time when these same like-minded peoples will bring to face justice all those who have brought such evil against innocents – slaughtered and worse – for the criminals who perpetrate the elimination of innocents… horrors devised, for their own convoluted goals.  
    Now, for nearly 100 years Armenia shall stand as shining light for all the world to know that there is a memorial in the world, in Christian Armenia, for all those who were slaughered and violated by the criminal leaderships.  It matters not  who or what their nationals… all who suffered Genocides shall know,  come finally to rest in peace, no matter where their bones lie… that there is remembrance of them at a memorial site – all deprived of their lives by Genocide leaderships (names listed in perpetuity)  at a site in Armenia… awaiting the world’s civilized citizens, to join together, ending the cycle of Genocides – still.

  14. P.S.  Too, there may be those of other nationals/sufferers of Genocides… wanting to contribute to this huge effort in Armenia – wanting to include in the memorium all those lost to their nation via the horrors of Genocides… But ONLY if they are worthy of such honest memorium.

  15. How about both building museum and strengthening Armenia? When we will learn that sometimes we have to overlook our pride and personal interests over national interest? This museum could have been built if not this useless battle that accumulates more and more legal fees.

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