RIDGEFIELD, NJ—Organized by the Arthur Mgrdtchian khoump of the Tro Gomideh, a requiem service was held on Sunday at the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church. The requiem marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of Aram Manoogian—the founder of the Republic of Armenia in 1918—and Rosdom (Stepan Zorian)—one of the three founders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). Sadly both Aram and Rosdom passed away in the same month: January and due to the same illness: diphtheria.
Following the requiem, approximately 40 people attended a bilingual lecture by Raffi Shekookian about Rosdom’s life. Rosdom was born in the same “kavar” (county) of the Vaspouragan province of Armenia as fellow comrade Krisdapor. Rosdom attended a Russian high school in Tbilisi where he met the poet Hovhannes Toumanian. Toumanian would later dedicate the poem “Lerneri Khorhourteh” (“The spirit of mountains”) to Rosdom.
Rosdom attended a couple of universities where he met Simon Zavarian and Avedis Isahakian and participated in student protests. While absent at the founding ARF meeting of 1890 because he was exiled by the Russian government, he later participated in the first World Congress of 1892 and became an active member of the ARF leadership. For three years, he was the editor of the ARF periodical “Troshag” (flag). He helped organize the Armenian resistance in Garin (Erzerum) during the 1896 Hamidian pogroms and thus saved countless lives of the Garin Armenians. His role during the fourth ARF World Congress in Vienna (1907) was paramount; he was able to heal the breach between left and right wing members and re-unite the party around its main goals. In 1903, he united the Armenian population of Eastern Armenia to fight the tsar’s edict confiscating all church properties. He met with Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig and assured him of the ARF’s support, encouraging him to declare that he will never give our property to the tsar.
One of Rosdom’s biggest achievements was to organize an Armenian community in Garin between 1910 and 1914. He was the director of the Armenian schools council, publisher of the local weekly Armenian paper, a teacher and a night lecturer. With his efforts, the community thrived; poets, writers, former fedayis visited and stayed in Garin for extended periods of time. He was a magnet that attracted prominent Armenians to Garin. As a matter of fact, the seventh and eighth ARF World Congresses were held for the first time in Armenia in Garin.
In 1918, with a weapon in hand, he organized the “Herosamard” (resistance) in Baku and defended the local population when the Azeris attacked the city. Later, he escorted the Baku Armenians to Iran after the collapse of the city. During the 1918 Armenian-Georgian war, he tried to ease tensions between both sides by meeting with his former Georgian friend N. Jordania. Tbilisi’s cold weather, the loss of Western Armenia and countless other issues took a toll on his health. He died on his birthday 52 years later leaving an unsurpassed legacy of achievements.
Perhaps, Satenig Der Tavtian best summarized Rosdom’s life by saying: “To preach and to be able to put into practice what you preach is unheard of these days…Very few can do that.”