200 000 Gather at Sardarabad to Mark Independence Day Anniversary

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–The official celebration to mark the 80th anniversary of Armenian independence began on Thursday near the bridge at Armavir–where Prime Minister Armen Darbinian accompanied by government officials and local elected officials greeted President Robert Kocharian and his entourage. The audience welcomed the president with enthusiastic applause as dancers dressed in traditional Armenian costumes offered him bread and salt. The procession of cars then made its way to the Sardarabad monument.

Among officials in attendance were President Robert Kocharian–National Assembly Speaker Khosrov Harutiunian–Prime Minister Armen Darbinian–Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Harutiunian–members of the National Assembly–government officials–military officials–religious figures–Diasporan officials and guests. Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian was also in attendance.

Armenian Defense Minister and chairman of the 80th anniversary celebration committee Vazgen Sargsyan congratulated members of the audience on the 80th anniversary of Armenian independence and on the occasion of First Republic Day. Sargsyan was presented with the symbolic baton of the 400 km relay marathon held in honor of the 80th anniversary.

Sargsyan praised the unstructured battalions of Western Armenia’s–Iranian Armenia’s–Russian Armenia’s and Karabakh Armenia’s which were able to win the fight with the organized Turkish armed forces and earn freedom and independence for their nation. He stressed that it was their unified effort and heroes Aram Manoukian–Movses Siligian–Tovmas Nazarbegian–Drasdamad (Dro) Ganayan–Daniel and Boghos Peg-Peroomian–Antranig–Kevork Sourenyan along with many other Armenian warriors which brought them to victory.

Messages were also delivered by the youngest son of Drasdamad Ganayan–US resident Mardiros Ganayan; the daughter of Aram Manoukian–Seta Manoukian; the granddaughter of Daniel Peg-Peroomian–Russia resident Houri Peroomian; as well as Archbishop Asoghig Arisdagesyan–Armavir Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Following reenactment of battle scenes–the more than 200–000 member audience walked to the Sardarabad tower of bells at the foot of which were then placed wreaths from President Kocharian–the National Assembly–the government–organizations and individuals.

Musical and dance entertainment ensued as official guests toured the Sardarabad commemorative museum.

Celebrations capped off with a fireworks show as night fell on Sardarabad.

Kocharian Addresses the Nation

In a national radio address that morning–President Kocharian congratulated the nation on the 80th anniversary of Armenian independence. "The Armenian Republic was borne in the fires of war. The Armenian army was borne in the same days. At the battlefields of Sardarabad–Bash Abaran and Gharakilise–Armenia’s for the first time faced the enemy not with groups of freedom fighter or defense units–but with an organized army with Daniel Peg-Peroomian at Sardarabad–Drasdamad Ganayan at Bash Abaran and Movses Siligian as general commander," Kocharian said. "This already was an army with high warrior spirit and waged a battle with the participation of a cross-section of the population. Herein also lies the secret to the unbelievably large number of victories," the president said.

"The existence of the First Armenian Republic was a breakthrough in our people’s psychology and political consciousness," he said. "It provided the Armenian people with political maturity for self-reliance–the will for rectifying historical injustice perpetuated against them and the determination to return to the international arena."

Kocharian argued that contemporary Armenia must have a "strong state structure,"galloping economic growth" and a "powerful army."

"We have no right to work slowly. We are obliged to become the best organized state in the region," Kocharian said. "We are simply doomed to have a powerful army without which the balance of forces in our complicated and unstable region will be disrupted."

Turning to the country’s internal politics Kocharian vowed to foster "national unity," and rule out "internal political polarization and confrontation." He indicated that the previous Armenian authorities are to blame for creating "an atmosphere of intolerance" and "senseless social cleavages."

He added that the Karabakh movement was borne with the spirit of Sardarabad and once again instilled a national reawakening providing the people with the opportunity to believe in its own abilities on the road to erasing injustices.

Kocharian called on the nation to come together to place the homeland’s interests above all personal–political–and party interests.

"This is the lesson from Sardarabad," he explained–adding that "this must become a cornerstone of today’s internal political life."

"On May 28–our predecessors struggled in order for the Armenian to be free in one’s country," Kocharian said.

Sosse Mayrig Buried at Yeraplur

Earlier in the day–the remains of national heroine Sosse Mayrig were officially transported from the Armenian Relief Cross Yerevan office to the national army headquarters where government officials–National Assembly members–representatives of organizations–Armenian Relief Society members from around the world–as well as the general public came to pay respect to the freedom fighter and wife of Aghpuyr Serop.

Also in attendance were members of Sosse Mayrig’s extended family from Armenia and the Diaspora. Sosse Vartanian passed away in 1954 in Alexandria–Egypt. Every May 28–ARF members would hold memorial services at her tomb.

Following the viewing at the national army headquarters–Sosse Mayrig’s remains were taken to the pantheon at the Yeraplur Armenian Martyrs’ Cemetery–where during the religious service–Deputy Defense Minister Asdvadzadour Bedrossian and ARS members reflected on her heroic life.

Following the memorial service–at 1:30 p.m.–Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan–deputy ministers–military officials and ARS members–and public representatives witnessed the internment of Sosse Mayrig’s remains–in accordance to military tradition. Her burial site is adjacent to those of Monte Melkonian and Ashod Navasartian.

More than 300 ARS members from around the world have gathered in Armenia to attend 80th anniversary celebrations–to witness Sosse Mayrig’s burial at Yeraplur–and to attend an ARC/ARS symposium.

Visit to Aram Manoukian’s Tomb

Also that morning–government officials–public servants–intellectuals–students–and Diasporan guests visited the tomb of Aram Manoukian (1879-1919)–Prime Minister of the First Republic of Armenia. Among official guests who observed a minute of silence at the gravesite were Prime Minister Armen Darbinian and Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Harutiunian.

Wreaths were placed at the tomb on behalf of the government–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s–and other organizations and individuals. The memorial service was delivered by religious from St. Etchmiadzin.

Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Romania and Bulgaria–Archbishop Diran Mardigian spoke about Manoukian’s life mentioning that 1999 will mark the 120th anniversary of his birth and 80th anniversary of his death. The Archbishop especially acknowledged Manoukian’s daughter Seta Manoukian from Russia.

"I am grateful to be at this ceremony," Manoukian said–"I am joyous that the homeland is honoring my father Aram Manoukian."

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