SOCHI, Russia—What was to bring together 5,000 to 6,000 Armenians from around the Krasnodar region of Russia and Abkhazia for a community-wide May 28 celebration turned sour when local authorities ordered the Armenian community here to bring down a statue of General Antranig, which was to be unveiled for the event.
According to members of the Armenian community in Sochi, local authorities said that the statue must come down, or it will be demolished.
The authorities explained their decision saying that the unveiling of the statue might anger Turkey, which could refuse to take part in the construction of facilities for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.
Armenia’s Consul General Ararat Gomtsyan told Armenian activists of Sochi in a phone conversation that he was unable to do anything. He also advised them to adhere to authorities’ request. According to representatives of the Armenian community, the decision was adopted in Moscow, but not in the region. They claimed that pressure from Azeri groups led to the decision.
“There is a certain policy by the Russian authorities toward the Armenian population,” said a statement issued by the Armenian community, which claimed that anti-Armenian sentiments in Krasnodar were prevalent.
Sochi and that region of Russia is home to a large number Hamshen-Armenians, who also issued a statement expressing their anger.
“General Antranig is not only a national hero but our compatriot, native of Trabzon, just like many Armenian residents of Sochi. It is not a mere coincidence that Armenians of Sochi were the organizers of the monument,” read the statement of Hemshin Armenians in Russia.
“Dismantling of the monument is not only an affront to the memory of Gen. Antranig, but also to the memory of our ancestors,” said the Hamshen-Armenian announcement. The community said it considered the order an act of vandalism.
Gen. Antranig is an Armenian hero who led battles for the liberation movement of Armenia, including those for independence. He organized the defense efforts in Sassoun and Zangezour.
He died in Fresno on August 31, 1927 and was buried in Paris until the Armenian government in 2000 arranged the relocation of his remains to Armenia where they are interred at Yerablour National Cemetery in Yerevan.