CA Assemblymember Holden Introduces Resolution Establishing Sister State Relationship With Syunik

Assemblymember Chris Holden introduced a resolution, ACR 105, that establishes a sister state relationship between California and the Armenian Province of Syunik – the southernmost province in Armenia. The resolution declares California’s solidarity with Syunik and will encourage and facilitate mutually beneficial educational, economic, and cultural exchanges. The resolution is joint authored by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, and coauthored by Assemblymembers Lisa Calderon, Laura Friedman, Jesse Gabriel, Christina Garcia, Mike Gipson, Tom Lackey, Kevin Mullin, and Senators Bob Archuleta, Andreas Borgeas, Maria Elena Durazo, and Anthony Portantino.

“For thousands of years, the state of Syunik has had profound historical and cultural significance for Armenia and the world,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “Strengthening our relationship with the Syunik comes at a critical time as regional powers like Azerbaijan and Turkey pose a threat to its existence.”

“I enthusiastically thank Assemblymember Chris Holden for initiating this resolution of paramount importance,” said Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles, Ambassador Armen Bairbourtian. “The establishment of a California-Syunik Sister State relationship will develop a multidimensional partnership between the U.S. State of California and the Armenian Province of Syunik. My gratitude also goes to all the state legislators supporting the resolution.”

Syunik is one of the original provinces of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia and is currently bordered by Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Syunik is home to the Armenian Stonehenge, Karahounj, that dates back to the bronze age; The Ughtasar Mountain petroglyphs that are 7,000 years old; the 9th Century Tatev Monastery that served as a center of scholastic and spiritual activity. The most populated town in the province is its capital, Kapan with 43,000 residents.

In the aftermath Azerbaijan’s renewed war against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh Republic, the Azerbaijani military crossed into the Republic of Armenia and moved 3.5 kilometers into Syunik Province, seizing the entirety of Sev Lake. The next day, the Azerbaijani military breached two other sections of the border and occupied more areas of Armenia. Azerbaijan’s illegal presence remains in Syunik, threatening Armenia’s sovereignty and the people who live there.

Below is the full text of the resolution:

WHEREAS, For decades, California has been a refuge and home to Armenian immigrants; and

WHEREAS, Notable numbers of Armenians began arriving in California in the late 19th century. In the 1870s, a majority of Armenian immigrants in California settled in the City of Fresno. In the City of Fresno, Armenians flourished and made their mark on the fruit, dried fruit packaging, and shipping industries; and

WHEREAS, The success of the Armenian community in the City of Fresno attracted Armenians from across the United States to move to the City of Fresno and make California their home. A study from Stanford University revealed that in 1930, 84 percent of early Armenian settlers moved to the City of Fresno after living 5.7 years in some other United States city. By the outbreak of World War II, an estimated 10,000 Armenians resided in the City of Fresno, making up about 25 percent of the county’s minority population; and

WHEREAS, Armenian success in agriculture led to the first and only United States-based Armenian community about 40 miles southeast of the City of Fresno; and

WHEREAS, After World War II, the Armenian community was centered in southern California, including in the Cities of Pasadena and Glendale, and in the Boyle Heights and Hollywood neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles; and

WHEREAS, While Armenians had settled in Hollywood much earlier in the 20th century, Hollywood became an Armenian enclave in the 1960s. This community became a refuge for Soviet dissidents in 1970s, and in the 1980s became the ultimate destination for many post-Soviet Armenians; and

WHEREAS, As Hollywood became urbanized in the 1980s, the City of Glendale became the epicenter of the Armenian community in southern California. The City of Glendale continues to be the epicenter of the Armenian community in southern California to this day, with Armenian shops, grocery stores, bakeries, and delis on every major artery through the city. Significant Armenian representation on the City of Glendale’s city council has facilitated the establishment of Armenian cultural centers, Armenian language city voting materials, and dual immersion language programs in public schools; and

WHEREAS, California is home to the largest Armenian American population in the United States, and Armenians living in California, most of whom are direct descendants of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, have enriched our state through their leadership and contributions in business, agriculture, academia, government, and the arts; and

WHEREAS, California has taken decisive action to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and to work towards a more global recognition of historical facts. Given recent attacks on Armenia by the Turkish and Azerbaijani governments, California stands with the Armenian people’s desire to have security in their homes, recognizes the generational trauma caused by the Armenian Genocide, and acknowledges the pain and danger of any country’s efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide; and

WHEREAS, In September 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and signed an agreement to create a Trade and Services Desk in Armenia. This desk will be used to encourage trade and investment by Californian and Armenian businesses, and will foster economic cooperation and development by assisting entrepreneurs in connecting with their counterparts to engage in various trade and commercial activities; and

WHEREAS, The Armenian Province of Syunik is the southernmost province of Armenia. It is bordered by the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Republic of Artsakh or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is also one of the original provinces of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia; and

WHEREAS, On May 12, 2021, the Azerbaijani military crossed into the Republic of Armenia and moved 3.5 kilometers into Syunik Province, seizing the entirety of Sev Lake. The next day, the Azerbaijani military breached two other sections of the border and occupied more areas of Armenia. It was initially reported that, with Russian mediation, Azerbaijan agreed to withdraw to their pre-May 12 positions, but with two small military camps being established nearby. However, Armenian reports suggest that many Azerbaijani soldiers remain illegally in Armenia; and

WHEREAS, In acknowledgment of the Turkey-supported Azerbaijani occupation of border cities of the Syunik Province, and the reasons described above, the Legislature wishes to recognize the Armenian Province of Syunik as a sister state; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring,

WHEREAS, The Armenian Province of Syunik is the southernmost province of Armenia. It is bordered by the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Republic of Artsakh or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is also one of the original provinces of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia; and

WHEREAS, On May 12, 2021, the Azerbaijani military crossed into the Republic of Armenia and moved 3.5 kilometers into Syunik Province, seizing the entirety of Sev Lake. The next day, the Azerbaijani military breached two other sections of the border and occupied more areas of Armenia. It was initially reported that, with Russian mediation, Azerbaijan agreed to withdraw to their pre-May 12 positions, but with two small military camps being established nearby. However, Armenian reports suggest that many Azerbaijani soldiers remain illegally in Armenia; and

WHEREAS, In acknowledgment of the Turkey-supported Azerbaijani occupation of border cities of the Syunik Province, and the reasons described above, the Legislature wishes to recognize the Armenian Province of Syunik as a sister state; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, That the Legislature, on behalf of the people of the State of California, hereby extends to the people of the Province of Syunik in Armenia an invitation to join with California in a sister state relationship until January 1, 2026, in order to encourage and facilitate mutually beneficial educational, economic, and cultural exchanges; and be it further

Resolved, That it is the intent of the Legislature through a sister state relationship with the Province of Syunik to further promote the prosperity of both regions, to improve international understanding and goodwill between both regions, and to publicly declare California’s solidarity with Syunik; and be it further

Resolved, That any sister state agreement be developed through the mutual cooperation and engagement of the Legislature, the Legislature of the Province of Syunik, and Armenia; and be it further

Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.