By L. A. Saryan
The Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia issued a 100-dram denominated silver commemorative coin dedicated to the Centennial observance of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, according to an announcement from the public relations department at the Central Bank dated Feb. 27. The coin depicts a collage of several memorial monuments that have been erected around the world in honor of the victims.
As far as is known, this is the first official coin struck by Armenia or any other country to commemorate the genocide. It ranks as one of the most historically significant coins struck anywhere in the world during 2015. Until now, only commemorative medals issued by private organizations have been issued on this theme.
The obverse gives the denomination “100 dram” and legends “Armenian Genocide” and (bilingually) “Republic of Armenia.” The memorials shown on the obverse include the Monument to the Grieving Mother (Izhevsk, Russia); the Monument to the Composer Komitas (Paris, France); cross-stone (khatchkar) monuments at Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia, and Glendale, Calif.; and the pylons of the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial Complex, situated on a hill overlooking Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.
The reverse presents additional monuments, including the Statue of Armenian Freedom Fighters (Ujan, Armenia); a part of a monument in the shape of an eagle (Aleppo, Syria); a portion of a memorial plaque depicting an Armenian woman (São Paulo, Brazil); a cross-stone monument (Antwerp, Belgium); and the pylons and spire at Tsitsernakaberd with the inscriptions “Armenian Genocide” (in Armenian) and “1915-2015.”
When placed side by side, the obverse and reverse together form the complete monument complex at Tsitsernakaberd. The stark design conveys the somber aspect of this tragic history.
The new coin has a diameter of 50 mm, weighs 67.2 grams of 925 fine silver, and is struck in antique finish with a plain edge. It was designed by artists Souren Simonyan and Aram Ouroutyan. A limited mintage of 1,000 examples has been produced under contract for the Central Bank of Armenia by the Lithuanian Mint.
The Armenian Genocide was planned and executed by the government of Ottoman Turkey, under the cover of World War I. It resulted in the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians living in Turkey, as well as hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians, through massacre, forced deportation, starvation, and disease. The fact that this genocide went essentially unpunished was noted by Hitler as he was planning the invasion of Poland during the early days of World War II. Worldwide observance of this tragedy, the greatest calamity in modern Armenian history, is taking place during 2015.
The new coin is available for purchase from the Numismatic Salon of the Central Bank in Yerevan.
Dr. Saryan is a numismatic researcher in Milwaukee, Wis.