The Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts (ANC-EM) recently announced the formation of a lecture series, named in honor of Mikael Varantian, one of the luminaries and intellectuals of the Armenian independence and renaissance movement of the late-19th century.
Mikael Varantian was one of the main ideologists of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). A political commentator and an active journalist, he published a number of important articles in “Droshak” (banner) and wrote a number of books including, The Prehistory of the Armenian Movements, The Reawakening Homeland and Our Rule, Dashnaktsutiun and its Adversaries, Simon Zavarian, and The History of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
As a tribute to Varantian’s intellectual rigor and commitment to the Armenian Cause, the lecture series aims to provide a platform for experts in the fields of political science, economics, and international law and diplomacy to share their knowledge and experience. The ANC strives to provide the community with a deeper understanding of the current affairs and their overt and covert driving forces, and to more effectively engage well-informed citizens in the political discourse, affecting positive change towards a better future for their adopted as well as ancestral homelands. The ANC-EM believes that this is at the core of the democratic principles of the free society in which we live, and which we collectively pledge to reinforce, nurture, and sustain in our 25-year-young republic.
Mikael Varantian, born Mikael Hovhannisian, was born sometime between 1872 and 1874 in Keyatoug village in Artsakh’s Varanta region. Later in life, he assumed his pen name in homage to his birthplace.
He started his studies in Shushi’s municipal school, which at the time was a hotbed of progressive movements, and started to write at the age of 18. His essays were published in the “Mourj” (hammer) and “Meshag” (cultivator) periodicals, signed under the pen name Ego. He continued his studies in sociology and philosophy in Geneva beginning in 1890 through the help of one of his relatives in Tbilisi, Georgia. He took additional courses in Germany, where he met and was influenced by some of his professors in the era of new socialism.
He began to cooperate with Stepan Zorian (Rostom, one of the founders of the ARF) in 1892 and started to serve alongside Edgar Agnouni, Sarkis Minasian, and Avetis Aharonian as the editor of “Droshak,” the official organ of the ARF. “Droshak” was first published by Kristapor Mikaelian in 1890 in Tbilisi, then in Balkans, Geneva, Paris, Beirut, Athens, and today in Yerevan. Varantian kept a hectic pace of work by preparing editorials and writing articles, in addition to his responsibilities as a member of the ARF Western Bureau (in Geneva), having been elected after the Fourth World Congress in 1904. He also handled media relations for the ARF, as well as other responsibilities with the Socialist International. It was through his efforts that the ARF became a member of the Socialist International.
Varantian was deeply affected by the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman-Turkish government. As a result, he left Geneva for Tbilisi and soon became the editor of “Horizon,” the ARF newspaper in Georgia. Later, he returned to Europe and served in Boghos Noubar’s Armenian National Delegation until Armenia’s independence.
In 1915, Varantian proposed to form a large Armenian volunteer military unit to the Russian, British, and French ambassadors on behalf of the ARF Western Bureau. He proposed to have the military unit trained in Cyprus to then engage the Ottoman forces in Cilicia. In spite of approvals by the Russian and British ambassadors, the French refused to approve the proposal. As a result, the proposed military unit never saw the light of the day.
Upon independence, Varantian was nominated to serve as the ambassador of the new Republic of Armenia to Rome. Yet, he was deeply saddened by the relative indifference of the world to the plight of the Armenians and the gravity of the genocide perpetrated upon his people. He was also disillusioned by the USSR Communists for their misinterpretation of socialism. By 1924, he had gradually started to remove himself from politics. However, he continued to write under a difficult psychological state and spiraled into a darker state of mind, when his close friend, Avetis Aharonian, suffered a stroke while giving a lecture in his presence. Varantian passed away shortly thereafter on April 22, 1934.
His meticulously prepared The History of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation remains an emblematic work to this day.