AYF holds its Annual ARF Weekend in the Poconos

ARF Weekend attendees, lecturers and CE members

The Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) hosted its Annual ARF Weekend on April 12-14 at a cabin in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania. 

The educational weekend, aimed at familiarizing members of the AYF-YOARF with the ARF and its goals, ideology and methodologies, was attended by 10 members from four chapters across the Eastern Region. 

Participants arrived Friday evening and woke up Saturday morning excited to hear from the lecturers. Following a hearty breakfast prepared by the ARF ungers, the day began with Dikran Kaligian providing an overview of the history of the ARF in the Eastern United States. His lecture covered the initial formation of the ARF in the Eastern Region, the importance of the region to the ARF’s activities and its role throughout the fedayi period, the Genocide and the First Republic of Armenia. Members were interested in learning about the industries that first brought Armenian refugees to cities that now have AYF chapters, such as the Hood rubber factory in Watertown, textile mills in Providence, the automobile industry in Detroit and steel working and slaughterhouses in Chicago. Kaligian also provided historical context for the church split, the political divides within the Armenian community and the development of the AYF and sister organizations, as the ARF took on a leading role in organizing Armenian communities in the eastern U.S. 

Dikran Kaligian lecturing on the history of the ARF in the Eastern Region

Next, Raffi Hamparian gave a characteristically impassioned talk about Vahan Cardashian, who worked closely with ARF members at the time to lobby the United States government, organize grassroots movements within Armenian communities and lay the foundation for the work done by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today. 

Raffi Hamparian passionately speaking about Vahan Cardashian and his work

After a quick lunch, the weekend resumed in earnest with Hayg Oshagan and Alec Soghomonian presenting jointly on the ideology of the ARF, in particular the ARF’s vision of socialism and how it can be applied in today’s society, both in the U.S. and Armenia. 

Oshagan covered the tenets of nationalism, democracy and socialism that make up the ARF’s core ideology and broke down misconceptions that are often associated with each. While nationalism is often used today to describe an ideology under which one group sees itself as superior to others, the ARF rejects any such notions of chauvinism, rather believing that nations provide individuals with the best opportunity to develop, with each nation ensuring the rights of the individuals in those nations. 

Hayg Oshagan touching on the ARF ideology and the tenets of socialism

Likewise, Soghomonian discussed socialism through the lens of the ARF, which stresses putting the rights of individuals and needs of society over profit, while understanding that there needs to be a balance between public, cooperative and private ownership. While these ideas are most relevant to creating a vision for how to structure society within the Republic of Armenia, Soghomonian explained how those same ideas guide the work of the AYF through various programs and its approach to supporting Armenian communities across the Diaspora.

Alec Soghomonian of the AYF-YOARF Central Executive

After covering the ideology of the ARF at a higher level, Vrej Dawli provided a synopsis of Hratch Dasnabedian’s “Ո՞վ Է Դաշնակցականը” (Who is the Tashnagtsagan?), which focuses on the character and attributes of an ARF member, including sacrifice, humility and an adherence to the ideology and decisions of the party. To emphasize each of Dasnabedian’s points, Dawli shared several personal anecdotes about individuals who epitomize these characteristics.

The final lecture, which quickly became more of a conversation and transitioned into a panel discussion, was led by Georgi-Ann Bargamian, who spoke about misconceptions surrounding the ARF and how to evaluate them objectively. Additionally, she spoke frankly about some of the shortcomings of the ARF and how the organization is working to address them, highlighting the importance of young members’ participation in helping the organization achieve the ultimate goal of a free, united and independent Armenia.

With the structured lectures complete, discussions continued through dinner and well into the night. The event concluded with the singing of Յեղափոխական (patriotic/revolutionary) songs and a strong sense of camaraderie. The weekend served as an inspiration and a reminder of the importance of the collective struggle for all who were present, AYF and ARF members alike. 

The 2024 AYF-YOARF Central Executive would like to thank the lecturers and participants for their contributions to the weekend and look forward to the next regional event, Junior Seminar, which will take place from May 24-27 in Ligonier, PA.

Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

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