CRANSTON, RI—On November 30, the Providence ARF “Kristapor” Gomidehoutiun celebrated the 129th anniversary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the 120th anniversary of the Hairenik newspaper at the Cranston Country Club. Providence ARF Chairman Hagop Donoyan welcomed almost 100 members and supporters in attendance and introduced master of ceremonies Hrag Arakelian. The national anthems of the United States of America and Armenia were sung by Dalita Getzoyan followed by the ARF anthem, Mshag Panvor, led by Menar Tarpinian.
Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church offered his message of encouragement to the organization and acknowledged the ARF’s prominent role in the community throughout the decades. He also noted that our faith in God, along with the dedicated
work of the ARF and Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), played a major role in the recent passage of H.Res.296 officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The theme for the evening was longevity and relevance. Arakelian began his comments with recognition of Hairenik’s long history, stating, “Think about that for a second. One hour north of here where we’re sitting is the oldest running Armenian newspaper in the world.” He also described the integral role of the newspapers, including The Armenian Weekly, and their influence on the community, specifically with the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). At one time, the Weekly devoted an entire page to the AYF, and every community encouraged its chapters to craft and submit articles for the page. “Where else do young adults from our own communities have a professional newspaper that welcomes their opinions for print? Nowhere,” said Arakelian, stressing the professionalism of the newspaper and its worldwide reach. When discussing the Hairenik’s history, Arakelian spoke about the editors of the newspaper, from Simon Vratsian who went on to be Prime Minister of the First Republic of Armenia, to the three former and current editors in attendance at the event, Khajag Mgrdichian, Rupen Janbazian and Pauline Getzoyan.
Chairman of the ARF Eastern Region George Aghjayan shared his thoughts on the strengths and successes of the organization stating, “This is 129 years. This is ARF Day. Any organization that’s been around that long is doing something right.” Aghjayan urged the audience to consider the political landscape over the course of the last 129 years. “The ARF is the one that’s still standing, the one that’s still relevant in today’s community. If you want to understand how relevant the ARF is, you just have to look at the criticism that’s directed at it. If you are irrelevant, nobody pays attention,” he said. He went on to stress that the importance of the ARF to the Armenian people lies in its relevance and history and the fact that there are still people willing to serve the community through the ARF, committing themselves to the betterment of the Armenian people and nation. Aghjayan concluded, “Our relevance shows by the young people today, and you can look around the room today and see them, that they continue to join our ranks.”
The keynote speaker for the evening was Khatchig Mouradian, Ph.D., a historian and lecturer at Columbia University and former editor of the The Armenian Weekly. Mouradian’s emphasis was on the health and vitality of the paper and its vision for the future. He said that an organization of this many years has much to be proud of, especially at a time when written media outlets all over the world are stopping the printing presses and turning to online platforms instead. Mouradian focused on the global reach of the Hairenik stating, “This is not just a publication that has provided service to the community through the news, through the information, through the opinion pieces, etc. This is an institution that has also trained the future activists, leaders, politicians, you name it. There is tremendous value in this organization that has created a network long before our modern understanding of social networks even existed.”
To illustrate the international scope of the Hairenik, Mouradian offered the example of Garabed Mekhtigian who was born in Maden, Diyarbakir, conscripted into the Ottoman Army and sent to Erzeroum where he was only one of three survivors. Mekhtigian then served in the Armenian Army, was part of the Kars resistance, moved to the Caucasus and finally ended up in a small town in the northeastern corner of China. There he was instrumental in building an Armenian community and a church, starting a youth organization and a chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), and finally starting a library. “And where did he decide to get the books for the library? From the Hairenik,” said Mouradian. In fact, Mekhtigian’s daughter Virginia, now in her nineties and living in Fresno, CA, told Mouradian that she remembered the Hairenik always being on their kitchen table as she was growing up in China.
Thus, the Hairenik has played an integral role, not only in our families and communities locally, but also around the world. The organization continues to take on new initiatives, looking to the future while also honoring its history. Mouradian offered a couple of recent examples, including the full digitization of the Hairenik and Armenian Weekly newspapers and construction of a full media center on the fourth floor of the Hairenik building. Focusing on relevance and longevity, Mouradian concluded by encouraging everyone to continue supporting the Hairenik whenever possible, saying, “The history of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, going on 130 years now, is the history of the Armenian nation. The same can be said of the Hairenik for the past 120 years. The history of the Hairenik is the history of the Armenian nation with all its challenges and difficulties, with all its aspirations and dreams. At one of its darkest points, the Hairenik lost three of its former editors to the Armenian Genocide. At one of its brightest points, the Hairenik had one of its editors as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.”
Since the Providence ARF dedicated the ARF Day celebration to the 120th anniversary of the Hairenik, Arakelian ended the evening with the traditional momavaroutioune (candle lighting of the cake) to help raise funds for the newspaper. All proceeds from the event, which have already surpassed three-thousand dollars, are being donated to the Hairenik.
Boston’s DJ Zareh provided entertainment with traditional and patriotic songs throughout the remainder of the evening.
The Providence ARF “Kristapor” Gomidehoutiun thanks the community for its support and encouragement and expresses particular appreciation this year as we honor the history of and support the future of the Hairenik. If you were unable to attend and would like to contribute with a donation to the Hairenik, please mail a check to: Providence ARF, 7 Armenia Street, Providence, RI 02909.