WASHINGTON, D.C.—On June 28, a statue of Armen Garo (Garegin Pastermadjian) was unveiled at the Armenian Embassy in Washington D.C. during a program dedicated to the centennial of the First Republic of Armenia. Armen Garo served as the First Republic of Armenia’s first ambassador to the U.S. from 1919–1920 and was a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).
The program was organized by the embassy in collaboration with the ARF, and featured speeches by President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian and ARF Bureau (World Council) member Hagop Der Khatchadourian, among others. The U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, ARF leaders, and hundreds of community members and dignitaries attended the event.
The bronze sculpture is the creation of renowned Canadian-Armenian artist Megerditch Tarakdjian. Two other Tarakdjian pieces — sculptures of Alan Hovhaness and Arshile Gorky — are also on permanent display at the Armenian Embassy.
Master of Ceremonies, Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian, opened the program with welcoming remarks and described the productive collaboration with the ARF of the Eastern U.S. in planning the event and securing the statue. The ambassador was joined by Der Khatchadourian, Hayg Oshagan of the ARF Eastern U.S. Central Committee, Tarakdjian and architect Aram Aladjajian to unveil the statue to great applause.
President Sarkissian spoke to the long-term significance and impact of the First Republic.
“We’re celebrating the continuation of this great victory — the victory of establishing the First Armenian Republic. It has never stopped; it had maybe a different face, for seventy years it was called the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, but a lot of us, in our hearts, still believe that the real republic is the one which is called a free and democratic Armenia,” Sarkissian said.
Sarkissian continued, noting that the First Republic lives on in the new, post-Velvet Revolution Armenian government.
“What was in our hearts became a reality again, and so the First Republic was reborn; it was never dead, it was reborn again. And it is reborn every and each time when we achieve something. It is reborn again and again, when on the fields of the fight for the independence of Artsakh, Armenian fighters had in their hearts the image and the message of the First Republic. It was reborn again and again just a couple of months ago, when the Armenians on the streets of Yerevan were demonstrating for a change — change for a more democratic, just country free of corruption, and a country of equals,” Sarkissian said.
The program included musical presentations by New-York-based young operatic bass Christopher Nazarian and fifth-grade students from Brightwood Education Campus, who are partnered with the Embassy of Armenia as part of the Embassy Adoption Program. The program also included remarks by Hayk Demoyan of the Armenian Genocide Memorial (Dzidzernagapert) in Armenia.
Der Khatchadourian congratulated all in attendance on the First Armenian Republic’s centennial.
“There is no greater date in modern Armenian history comparable to the miracle that was the reemergence of independent Armenian statehood after more than five and a half centuries under various harsh foreign rulers,” Der Khatchadourian said. “There are no greater feats than the heroic victories of our nation, under the leadership of Aram Manoukian, upon the battlefields of Bash-Aparan, Gharakilise, and Sardarapat … From the shapeless chaos of those days a reborn Armenia emerged.”
After detailing the incredible progress made during the few short years of the First Republic in setting a foundation for a country based on social justice and rights, Der Khatchadourian went on to praise recent political changes in the present-day Republic of Armenia.
“Armenia’s successes are our collective successes as a dispersed nation and, similarly, Armenia’s failures are our collective failures,” Der Khatchadourian said. “Now, reinvigorated by a new burst of optimism and democratic values, we have the potential of multiplying those successes and minimizing, hopefully even eliminating, its failures. Now we have the golden opportunity to do our part in helping Armenia, together with Artsakh and Javakhk, not only to survive but to prosper through hard work, dedication, resilience, and our well-deserved proclivity for creativity and innovation. This is our national, collective task, and failure is not an option.”
As part of the day’s events, the ambassador presented Savey Tufenkian a well-deserved lifetime achievement honor for her decades of leadership in support for humanitarian initiatives both in the Armenian Homeland and the Armenian American community.
The crowd included Adjutant General of Kansas National Guard Major General Lee Tafanelli, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Eastern U.S.; The Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S. ; the leadership of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Democratic Liberal Organization (Ramgavar Party), Armenian Relief Society, Homenetmen Armenian Athletic and Scouting organization, Armenian Youth Federation, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Association, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Assembly of America, Knights of Vartan, and other dignitaries.
The Embassy program was the last in a three-day series of centennial celebrations of U.S.-Armenia friendship which included the Tuesday, June 26, congressional salute of a century of U.S.-Armenia friendship, and the Wednesday, June 27, ANCA advocacy day.
The events coincided with the kick-off of the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Thursday, June 28, where Armenian culture and history are on display along with Catalonia.
A live stream of the June 28 event is available on the ANCA’s Facebook page.