WESTWOOD–More than 300 community members–and scholars attended a conference/symposium Saturday and Sunday at UCLA’s Dickson Hall–focusing on the Armenian city of Van/Vasbouragan–and sponsored by the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History and in cooperation with the Grigor Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Studies.
Conference organizer–Richard Hovanisian–holder of the AEF Chair in Armenian History at UCLA–opened the conference Saturday–stating that conference was moved from its original location to Dickson Hall due to a request from the State Department–which was concerned for the safety of Turkish Consul General to Los Angeles–H. Hayret Yalav–who attended the two-day session.
Before outlining the important role Van-Vasbouragan has played in the Armenian reality–Hovanissian apologized for the intense security at the entrance–saying that such a symposium and a university campus were not venues for such scrutiny.
He outlined that Van-Vasbouragan made up an important facet in the Armenian psyche today–thus stressing its importance in academic–as well as social realities.
Also present was Armenian Consul General to Los Angeles Armen Baibourtian.
European participants included Professor Robert Thomson–occupant of the Gulbenkian Chair at Oxford University. Thomson has translated–with extensive introductions and notes–the works of several Armenian historians such as Movses Khorenatsi–Eghishe and Tovma Artsruni–the historian of Vaspurakan about whom Thomson spoke.
Anahid Ter Minassian of the Sorbonne made two presentations–one on Van at the turn of the 20th century and the other on the self-defense of Van in 1915.
Nairy Hampikian of the German Archaeological Institute of Cairo gave an illustrated lecture on the architectural heritage of Vaspurakan and the importance of preserving the Armenian memory layers of Van.
James Russell–occupant of the Mashtots Chair of Harvard University–has written extensively on linguistics–religion and folklore. He began the conference with a discussion of how ancient tales and folklore persisted into the modern period of Armenian Van. Marc Nichanian–currently a visiting professor with the Avedissian Chair at Columbia University–spoke on post-genocide literature on Van–specifically on the works of Gurgen Mahari.
Ara Sarafian–visiting lecturer in Armenian history at Columbia–examined the Armenian responses to the famine in the province of Van in 1880-81.
From the Western US–Professor Dickran Kouymjian–holder of the Berberian Chair at California State University–Fresno–made a double presentation. Saturday–he will speak on Van under Mongol-Turkmen domination in the period from 13th century to 16th century–and Sunday he used slides and photographs viewing the iconography or pictorial memories of Armenian Van.
Peter Cowe–visiting associate professor with the Narekatsi Chair at UCLA–discussed the relations between the medieval kingdoms of Vaspurakan and Ani.
Among other presentations were UCLA-affiliated scholars. Alice Taylor who presented an illustrated talk on the Armenian art of the Lake Van region. Dr. Rubina Peroomian spoke on Khrimian Hairik and the provincial literature of Van in the 19th century.
Sarkis Karayan addressed the question of demography of the province and the numbers of Armenia’s between 1858 and 1914–and Stepan Astourian assessed the role of the Armenian revolutionary organizations in the defense of Van during the 1895-96 massacres in the Ottoman Empire. Clive Foss of the University of Massachusetts examined the Turkish sources on Armenian Van.
The conference was the first in a series of annual conferences on historic Armenian cities and provinces.