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Participating Scholars


The following is the list of the scholars who will participate in the Conference, and the titles of the papers they will be presenting:

Rev. Dr. Abel Manoukian
“The Founders: Their Formative Period as University Students”

In the 1980’s a group of young Armenian intellectuals from Western Armenia and the Caucasus arrived in Geneva to pursue their higher education. They were imbued with revolutionary ideas and utterly dissatisfied with both the Ottoman and Russian autocracies, under which both Western and Eastern segments of the Armenian nation endured. Armenians had to be liberated from foreign yoke to re-establish their right for a meritorious life in their own independent state.

Geneva in this period was the hub of Marxist and Socialist oriented Russian intellectuals, such as Plekhanov, Alexander Ivanovich Herzen, Bakunin, Vera Ivanova Zasulich and later on Lenin and others. Naturally, close ties were established between these Russian and Armenian dissident intellectuals, shaping their revolutionary ideals and convictions. While being imbued with international ideals, the Armenian students’ focus remained the Armenian Question: the liberation of the Armenian people and the establishment of a just civil society. With this mission in mind, they established the first Armenian revolutionary party in August 1887 and within three months started the publication of their official paper called “Hunchak.” The organization was thus named the Hunchakian party.

Rev. Dr. Abel Manoukian aims to present and analyze documentary notes about the lives and activities of the founders in Geneva as university students.

Prof. Kevork Bardakjian (University of Michigan , Ann Arbor)

“Ideology and Literature: The Mother Party and Some of Her Literary Children”

From their founding days onward, all Armenian political parties have attracted into their ranks, a large number of Armenian writers, some of great and others of modest fame. Apart from Awetis Nazarbekian (1866-1939), one of the founders of the SDHP, who published under the pen-name Lerents, late-nineteenth and early-twentieth authors such as Ghazaros Aghayan, Shirvanzade, Tzerents, Leo, Smbat Byurat, Tigran Kamsarakan, Levon Pashalian, Shushanik Kurghinian, Avetik Isahakyan in his early years, and many others are believed to have been members or sympathizers, or in some ways associated with the SDHP. Some of these authors attained leadership positions in the highest echelons of their respective parties, playing significant roles in partisan or national politics.

One such figure was Arpiar Arpiarian (1851-1908), a celebrated author and an influential journalist who, for almost a decade in the 1890s, was embroiled in intra and inter-party political strife, while trying to reform his party from within, and to orient the public through the periodical press and his writings. This paper will attempt to look into his literature, the short novel Karmir zhamuts (Crimson Offertory) in particular,to sketch some of the ways in which his very own hnchakian vision of an Armenian political future took shape and manifested itself in this same short novel. The critical and violent 1890s within both the Armenian realities and Ottoman and international politics will form the background to the paper.

Prof. Gerard Libaridian (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, retired)
“At the Origins of the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party: Problems and Paradoxes”

Three major paradoxes dealing with the early years of the founding of the Hunchakian party. These paradoxes, which deal with worldview of the founders of the party and the relevance of that worldview to relations with Western Armenia, the Church and Marxist ideology, explain much about the difficulties the Party faced as
well as those that challenged the Armenian people in general.

Prof. Vahram Shemmassian (California State University, Northridge)
“Absolute Monarchy: The Hunchakian Revolutionary Episode in Armenian Musa Dagh during the 1890s”

A group of Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (SDHP) revolutionaries on its way to fomenting
unrest at Zeytun, Cilicia, in order to draw the attention of the European Powers to the plight of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, arrived in Musa Dagh in 1893 and established what it termed “absolute monarchy” for the next three years. The creation of a civil tribunal and a police force, imposition of restrictions on alcohol use, curtailment of free movement, and infliction of harsh punishment on troublemakers, marked the new regime and brought about relative peace, albeit temporarily, to Musa Dagh’s fragmented and contentious society. Most Musa Daghians including women joined the Hunchakian movement through a variety of methods such as propaganda, indoctrination, and playing on fears. Some Alawites from neighboring Svedia also enlisted. The general membership partook in military drills with weapons smuggled from the island of Cyprus. To be sure, there was opposition to the SDHP from the conservative and religious circles (Apostolic, Protestant, and Catholic), as well as unanimous disapproval on the part of foreign diplomats and missionaries posted in the region.

Tensions grew with the arrival of Hunchakian reinforcements, modest as they were, from the United States in spring 1895 following news of new Armenian massacres at Sasun, Bitlis province. The Ottoman government sent warships to monitor the northern Syrian coastline, deployed additional ground troops, and formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the crisis. Despite these measures, the government refrained from applying actual force for fear of European intervention. Thanks to the mediation of a Capuchin monk at Kheder Beg (one of the six main villages in Musa Dagh) and an Italian engineer at nearby Svedia, the episode ended peacefully, whereby the revolutionaries surrendered and ultimately were sent abroad as agreed upon. Meanwhile, the government tightened its control by increasing the number of military observation posts around Musa Dagh. This situation prevailed until World War I.

Dr. Garabet Moumdjian (Independent Historian)
“1895 to 1914: The Relations of Armenian Political/Revolutionary Organizations with the Young Turk”

Why did the SDHP remain aloof regarding relations with the CUP, while the ARF went ahead with it? (Not participating in the two Ottomans opposition conferences of 1902 and 1907. Special importance is here given to the activities of SDHP leader Arpiar Arpiarian)

Did the internal problems and divisions within the party present a reason for this aloofness? After the 1908 revolution, why did the SDHP align itself with the opposition (Prince Sabaheddin and his League of Decentralization)? What was the role of the SDHP in the Ottoman Parliament and Armenian life in general during the constitutional period (The party did achieve some important growth during the constitutional period to the detriment of the ARF as per the ARF 6th [1911] and 7th [1913] General Congresses documents, which is also indirectly attested to by Sapah-Gulian’s books on the period (especially his report to Pokr Hayk Armenian Communities, and the “Badaskhanadunere”)?

Finally, what was the reason(s) motivating the party to the project of the Talaat Pasha assassination, which led to the famous trials and the execution of the party leadership (20 Gakhaghannere) right before WWI?

Prof. Hratch Tchilingirian (Oxford University)
“From End of Empires to the Global Age: Issues and Questions in Armenian Political Ideology and Strategy”

The founding ideological and strategic pillars of Armenian political parties in the late 19th century in general and the Hunchakian Party in particular were social democracy and the “liberation of the Armenian people” living under suppression and injustice.

While many of the fundamental principles of social democracy and freedom have remained relevant in the world in the last 125-year, the changes and developments ushered by the end of Empires in the 20th centuries and the emergence of a connected globalised world pose numerous questions that have not been fully addressed by the leadership of the Party.

What is the relevance of an Armenian political party that has existed for 125 years to Armenians living in the 21st century Los Angeles, Paris, Beirut, Damascus or Buenos Aires? Dr. Tchilingirian will attempt to deal with this question and offer some thoughts and reflection for future consideration.

Prof. Richard Hovannisian (University of California, Los Angeles)
“The Hunchakian Party and the First Republic of Armenia”

The Republic of Armenia, 1918-1920/21, was created under dire circumstances. Initially, it was a small, landlocked area around Yerevan and Echmiadzin and crammed with countless Western Armenian refugees and lacking any significant infrastructure. Matters improved by 1919, by which time the Republic had incorporated the province of Kars and had more than doubled in size.

Still, there was much wariness on the part of the Western Armenian diasporan communities, which had always regarded the “Yergir,” that is the homeland around Van. Sasun, and Mush to Erzerum and Erzinka, as the focal point of the liberation movement. There was concern that by recognizing the small Armenian republic around Yerevan, the victorious Allied Powers would decrease the Ottoman territories that were to be awarded the Armenians. Moreover, since the party Dashnaktsutiun was in control of the government and parliament of the Armenian republic, that party’s political opponents (who clustered around the National Delegation of Boghos Nubar Pasha in Paris) were generally distrustful of the “Araratian republic.”

The exception to this attitude was displayed by the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party and especially its ideologue Sabah-Gulian, who made a clear distinction between the transitory nature of any political regime and the importance of the permanent nature of the state.

Mr. Aram Arkun (Independent Historian)
“The role of the Hunchakian party in post WWI Cilicia”

Cilicia was one of the strongholds of the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party from its early days in the nineteenth century. After the Armenian Genocide and World War I, as Armenians returned to their homes in Cilicia, branches of the party were reorganized in Adana and many other towns and villages in the area. The Hunchakian
Party remained as the largest Armenian political organization in Cilicia. As such, it played an important role in the reconstruction of Armenian life during the period of British and French occupation. In addition to political work, it organized partisan groups which fought the Turkish Nationalists. In parts of Cilicia, such as the town of Zeytun, it was the sole active political party but in most other places it had at least one or two rival parties. In some large Armenian centers like the city of Hajin, it dominated community life despite bitter struggles with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

This paper will examine the role of the party in Cilician Armenian political life, focusing primarily on Zeytun and Hajin, places with overwhelmingly Armenian populations, while also referring to developments in Adana. Aside from military efforts in Zeytun and Hajin, volunteer movements in Cilicia to aid Hajin will be investigated.

The direct relations of the Hnchagian Party with other Armenian organizations, and its role in bodies like the Armenian National Union and Armenian Inter Political Party Councils, as well as its dealings with the French and Turks, will be analyzed.

Prof. Ara Dostourian (Prof. of History Emeritus, University of West Georgia)
“The Labor & Political Work of the SDHP of the Eastern U.S.A. in the Context of the Worldwide Hunchakian Movement”

The history of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party in the East coast. As an immigrant group, how successful was the SDHP in integrating with the American labor movement? Also how successful were they in importing socialist and working class ideas to the immigrant Armenian-American communities?

Dr. Vartan Matiossian (Armenian National Education Committee)
“The Hunchakian Party in the Armenian Communities of South America : An
Outline of its Early History”

The125th anniversary of the foundation of the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party is coincidental with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of its Argentinean chapter, the oldest in South America. However, at this point, it is only possible to make an introduction to the early history of the party in the region (including the chapters later founded in Uruguay and Brazil), for reasons that are more or less common to the study of Armenian parties in the Diaspora: unavailability of archival materials; near unavailability of newspaper collections; unreliability of secondary sources.

The paper will introduce some of the main highlights of party history in the three South American countries, which may serve as a guide for future in-depth research.

At this point, the paucity of factual information makes virtually impossible any attempt to analyze in detail the impact of the Hunchakian Party in the early history of the Armenian communities of South America. This impact must be properly measured, since the party had to withstand the ideological competition of Armenian progressives–who enriched their rank and file at its expense, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s—while making tactical alliances against the Armenian Revolutionary Federation for the political control of the communities.

Prof. Ara Sanjian (University of Michigan, Dearborn)
“Khrushchev, Karabagh and the Hunchakians: A Documented Journey in the World of Oral History in-Progress”

On 6 May 1961, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Communist Party chief, on a visit to Armenia to preside over the 40th anniversary celebrations of the republic’s sovietization, formally met with a select group of activists from the Armenian Diaspora. This would eventually prove to be a unique occurrence in the Soviet Union’s 74-year history. Three

Hunchakian leaders – Harutiun Guzhuni, Zhirayr Nayiri and Peniamin Zhamgochian –were among the Diasporan activists meeting Khrushchev.

For the Hunchakians, this meeting became important because Guzhuni grabbed the opportunity to tell Khrushchev directly that the Armenians of the Diaspora wished to see the jurisdiction of the Soviet Armenian republic extended over both Nakhichevan and Mountainous Karabagh.

The minutes of this meeting were declassified after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and were published in 2003. Armenian readers in the Diaspora, however, had already become acquainted with what had happened during this meeting through the travelogues of both Zhamgochian and Nayiri, published in 1961 and 1962, respectively, as well as through references made to this meeting in at least two separate newspaper interviews given by Guzhuni, in 1968 and 1971.

By comparing the official minutes of this meeting with the way it was later remembered and presented to readers by Zhamgochian, Nayiri and Guzhuni, as well as with other very brief accounts of a few other Hunchakian activists of the same generation – Vahrij Jerejian, Bebo Simonian and Manuel Atamian – who probably all learned about it from those who had attended the meeting, it becomes possible to trace the gradual changes in emphasis in the evolving Hunchakian narrative concerning the exchange between Guzhuni and Khrushchev.

Prof. Sanjian will also argue that this particular episode of oral-history-in-progress conforms to the changes in emphasis in the evolving Hunchakian position in the 1960s and 1970s about how Armenians should seek the annexation of Nakhichevan and Mountainous Karabagh to Soviet Armenia within the existing Soviet political structures. This argument can be substantiated by similar attitudes expressed in other Hunchakian publications of the same period.


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