Torlakian-Fundukian Youth Center Opens in Kovsakan, Artsakh

ARF Western U.S. Homeland Initiative

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western United States’ Homeland Initiatives Committee members met with Vartan and Sona Fundukian, who have graciously sponsored renovations of an ARF youth center in Kovsakan, in the Kashatagh region of the Republic of Artsakh.

ARF Western U.S. Homeland Initiative

ARF Western U.S. Homeland Initiative

The center will be named the “Torlakian-Fundukian Youth Center” in memory of Operation Nemesis avengers, Misak Torlakian and Yervant Findikian who, on July 18, 1921, assassinated Behbud Khan Javanshir, Minister of the Interior in Azerbaijan responsible for murdering 30,000 innocent Armenians in Baku in 1918. “We wanted a youth center in liberated Artsakh to be named after Misak and Yervant honoring the legacy of the Nemesis avengers who assassinated the ‘Butcher of Baku.’ The Armenian spirit has endured in a region that continues to be a bulwark against Azeri aggression,” said Vartan Fundukian.

Operation Nemesis was a series of covert missions carried out between 1920 and 1922 where a number of former Ottoman political and military leaders were assassinated for their role in the Armenian Genocide. “Our avengers and their battle for resistance is not forgotten. History is vital, as it helps us understand where we come from, which in turn empowers us to survive and manage the manner in which we live,” said Patil Derderian, Chairperson of the ARF Western US Homeland Initiatives Committee

Today, the peaceful Armenian population is rebuilding this southern region of Artsakh. With an emphasis on agricultural development – containing numerous farms with crops and livestock – community strongholds, such as this youth center, will play a crucial role in revitalizing the region. “Renovation Programs such as the Torlakian-Fundukian Youth Center, not only honors our history; it also nurtures, strengthens, and revives our nation by providing a place for this and future generations to gather,” said Sona Fundukian.

Kovsakan is strategically important for the Armenian population in the region, both in Artsakh and Armenia, simply by its geographic location. In the early 1990s, during Artsakh’s battle for liberation, it was subjected to intense fighting, was a launching point from which Azerbaijan regularly attacked the Republic of Armenia, and sustained heavy damages. “The center will be a home for the youth of the region, including those born in Artsakh and the many diasporans who have resettled in and around Kovsakan, who we encourage to lay down roots, thereby securing the future of this part of the Armenian homeland,” said Garo Madenlian, Organizational Representative of the ARF Western US Central Committee.

Misak Torlakian first met Yervant Findikian and his cousin Nerses Fundukian, in Trebizond, as they were natives of the region who joined the ARF fedayee groups battling the Ottoman army to save innocent Armenian villagers from massacre. They entered the ranks of General Dro’s army, fought valiantly, and eventually went to Tiflis where they carried out numerous missions on the orders of the regional central committee targeting spies and traitors, including one named Safarov.

Excerpt from Resistance and Revenge by Jacques Derogy:

“Yervant and Harutiun Harutunian were given the task of trailing Jivanshir to his residence and Missak was assigned to kill him. A week of trailing was enough to find out what was necessary. He was staying at the Hotel Pera Palace, had two limousines for himself and his entourage, but set schedule for his movements around the city.”

So the trio took up their position in a café opposite the hotel. They spent several days playing endless games of backgammon to watch the comings and goings at the hotel entrance. On the evening of July 18, two limousines drew up in front of the hotel. Jivanshir emerged, accompanied by five individuals wearing traditional shapkas.

Missak saw the group in shapkas in front of the hotel, some 60 meters away. He crossed the road, zigzagging among the cars. He had reached a point twenty paces away when Jivanshir turned toward him. His height disoriented Missak, who could aim only at his chest. Missak fired at point blank range. Everyone got out of the way at the sound of the shot, but the bullet only grazed Jivanshir, who remained upright and had the presence of mind to grab Torlakian’s wrist, which was still pointed at him. As Missak turned, he now faced Jivanshir, his chest exposed. The avenger fired twice. His victim released his grip, moved his hand to his heart and collapsed, calling for help as he did so.

People had taken refuge behind cars. The two policemen on guard in front of the hotel had taken to their heels when they saw the gun being fired. Taking advantage of the commotion, Missak ran around the corner of the street and disappeared behind the palace. Suddenly the memory of a nightmare entered his head: Jivanshir was on a white horse, its hooves threatening him, and his pistol became a whip unable to fire a single shot. This image rising from his subconscious, pushed Missak to return and administer the coup de grace to his victim, whom he had probably not killed. There were now some thirty people surrounding Jivanshir, but they moved aside when they saw the assailant return, gun in hand, and let him shoot the wounded man, who died shortly after reaching the hospital.”

The friendship spanned decades. Misak began living with Nerses Fundukian and his family in the Armenian Displaced Persons (DP) Camp near Stuttgart after WWII. He lived with the family until his death in Montebello, California. Yervant would often come down from San Francisco to visit. Fundukian family gatherings were enveloped by the warmth of these frequent reunions, imprinting the spirit of these warriors on new generations.

The renovation of the Torlakian-Fundukian Center is only one of many projects already completed or in progress by the Homeland Initiative. It serves as an example to our community members, answering the call to commit to the continued development and reinforced security of Armenia and Artsakh.

All Armenians are encouraged to engage and invest in Homeland Initiatives that will positively impact the lives of our brothers and sisters in our homeland. Just as we partnered with Vartan and Sona Fundukian to realize their vision, we are prepared to partner with all community members wishing to make such proposals. For more information, please contact us through email.

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