Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Death of Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian (October 26, 1884)

The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople went through turbulent times in the mid-nineteenth century, when there were heated disputes over the democratization of the Armenian society and the Church. The name of Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian emerged in the 1870s-1880s as a guiding light.

The future ecclesiastic was born Boghos Varjabedian in the district of Haskeuy (Constantinople) on January 28, 1837. He studied at the Nersessian School, in his neighborhood. At the age of fifteen he lost his father and became, as the eldest son, the main support of the family.  

He was sixteen in 1853, when he returned to his alma mater as a teacher. He moved to Adrianople (now Edirne) two years later. The local prelate, Bishop Aristakes Raphaelian, took the young teacher under his wings and in 1858 ordained him as a celibate priest (vartabed) with the name Nerses.

A year later, he returned to Haskeuy as pastor, becoming the standard bearer of a spiritual and intellectual renaissance in his birthplace. In 1861, on recommendation from the Patriarchate, he was sent as a preacher first to Romania and then to Transylvania (presently in Hungary). He was ordained a bishop in 1862. He participated actively in the struggle that led to the adoption of the National Constitution (Ազգային Սահմանադրութիւն/Azkayin Sahmanatrootyoon) in 1860 and the approval of its modified version by Sultan Abdul Aziz in 1863.  In 1866 he participated in the election of Catholicos of All Armenians Gevorg IV in Holy Etchmiadzin. In 1862 he was elected prelate of Nicomedia (Ismid). Two years later, he published his first book, The Holy Church of Christ and Her Opponents.

Patriarch Megerdich Khrimian (Khrimian Hayrig) resigned his position after a five-year tenure (1869-1874). Despite his youth (he was thirty-seven at the time), Bishop Nerses Varjabedian, enjoyed general respect and authority, and was elected Patriarch on April 26, 1874.

In 1875 he published his second book, Teaching of the Concordance of the Gospel of Our Lord. The latter was a combination of the four Gospels, with explanations and reflections in both Classical and Modern Armenian. It was used for a long time as a school textbook.

During his ten-year tenure, the Religious Council normalized its activities and established a minimum age to confer religious degrees. Patriarch Nerses participated actively in the activities of the Armenian United Society, an educational organization that worked towards the education of Armenians in the interior of Turkey. In the 1880s he would be the driving force behind the foundation of the Getronagan School in Constantinople (founded after his death, in 1886).

After the victory of Russia in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 and the favorable conditions created for the Armenian Question, the Patriarch presented a petition to Czar Alexander II, asking him to protect the Western Armenians.

He worked together with the National Council of Constantinople to enter article 16 in the Treaty of San Stefano, which established the need of reforms for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire under the guarantee of Russian occupation, as well as the cession of Western Armenian territories to Russia. He also organized and sent an Armenian delegation led by Khrimian to the Congress of Berlin. In 1879 he unsuccessfully addressed the European representatives to carry out reforms in Armenia and the British ambassador to have the Ottoman Empire comply with article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin. His memoranda to the Sublime Porte (the name of the Ottoman court) also remained unanswered.

In 1884 Varjabedian was elected Catholicos of All Armenians, but he resigned due to his poor health. He died on October 26, 1884, in Constantinople, at the age of 47, victim of diabetes.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Treaty of Kars (October 13, 1921)

As a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, the regions of Kars, Ardahan, Artvin, and Batum, at the time in the Ottoman Empire, went to Russia. 

The next conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire was during World War I. The Caucasian expedition of Enver Pasha in late 1914-1915 was soundly defeated in the battle of Sarikamish. Enver covered his defeat by accusing the Armenians of treason. As a result, the Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman Empire were disarmed and killed en masse, and the subsequent massacres and deportation of Armenians would soon turn into genocide. The Russian forces occupied an important section of Western Armenia (Van, Erzerum, Bitlis and Mush, Trebizond, and Erzinga) in 1915-1916.

After the October Revolution, the Russian forces abandoned the front. The Armenian battalions formed in a hurry were insufficient to stop the Ottoman advance and the territories of Western Armenia were lost between February and April 1918. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk (March 3, 1918) between Soviet Russia and the Ottoman Empire recognized the transfer of Kars, Ardahan, and Batum to the latter. After the armistice of Mudros (October 30, 1918), the Republic of Armenia established its sovereignty over most of the region of Kars, and the Treaty of Sevres recognized the region of Kars and most of Western Armenia as part of Armenia (August 1920).

However, as a result of the Armeno-Turkish war of September-November 1920, the region of Kars and Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri) was occupied by the Turkish forces, which threatened once again the existence of Armenia. The invasion of the XI Red Army on November 29 forced the government of the Republic of Armenia to transfer the authority to the Communists on December 2, which turned the country into a Soviet republic. 

Meanwhile, the representatives of the Republic signed the Treaty of Alexandropol with the Turks on the night of December 2 to 3. This treaty recognized the occupation of the region of Kars by Turkey. However, its legal validity was dubious, because it had been signed on behalf of a government that was already out of office. The next step was the signature of the Treaty of Moscow between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia on March 16, 1921. Turkey received the region of Kars, and the southern portion of the region of Batum. Probably as a compensation for the north of the region of Batum, the Bolsheviks transferred the Armenian province of Surmalu to the Turks. 

At the time, the February rebellion had expelled the Communist government from Armenia, while Georgia was still an independent republic. After Armenia and Georgia were finally occupied by the Red Army, the signature of the Treaty of Kars was meant to confirm the terms of the Treaty of Moscow by the representatives of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

The treaty was signed on October 13, 1921, and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922. Signatories included four Turkish representatives, Russian ambassador Yakov Ganetsky, and two representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Minister of Foreign Affairs Askanaz Mravian and Minister of Interior Poghos Makintsian signed it on behalf of Armenia.

The treaty confirmed the division of the region of Batum, with the north ceded by Turkey to Georgia and the south, with the city of Artvin, annexed by Turkey, which was also guaranteed free transit through the port of Batum.

It also created a new boundary between Turkey and Armenia, defined by the Akhurian and Arax rivers. Turkey annexed most of the region of Kars, including Surmalu, with Mount Ararat and the cities of Igdir and Koghb, the cities of Kars, Ardahan, and Olti, and the ruins of Ani.

The region of Nakhichevan became an autonomous territory under the protection of Azerbaijan, which was turned into the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhichevan in 1924, as an exclave subordinate to Soviet Azerbaijan and sharing a fifteen kilometer boundary with Turkey. 

The Soviet Union attempted to annul the Treaty of Kars and regain the lost territories of Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin after World War II on behalf of Armenia and Georgia. However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill objected to those territorial claims, and in 1947 the Soviet Union gave up its claims from Turkey.

The validity of the Treaty of Kars has been questioned on the basis that the sides that signed it did not have authority. The Turkish Grand National Assembly, which was represented by the Turkish signatories, had no authority to sign international treaties, which still rested with the legal ruler of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan, as established by its Constitution. The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed in 1923. On the other hand, the Soviet republics were under strict control of Moscow and the Soviet Union was established in December 1922.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Treaty of Kars was accepted by Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. However, the government of Armenia has made no such ratification.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Birth of Fridtjof Nansen (October 10, 1861)

Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian scientist and explorer, who later took up the cause of humanitarianism and had a crucial impact on Armenians in the 1920s.
He was born on October 10, 1861 near Norway’s capital Christiania (nowadays Oslo). His mother died in 1877, and his father moved to the capital with his two sons.

In 1881 Nansen entered the Royal Frederick University of the capital to study zoology. After a five-month sea voyage to study Arctic zoology in 1882, he did not resume formal studies, but accepted a post as curator in the zoological department of the Bergen Museum. In 1888 he defended his dissertation on the central nervous system of certain lower vertebrates.  In 1889 he accepted the position of curator of the university’s zoology collection and got married to Eva Sars, the daughter of a late zoology professor. They had five children. His wife died in 1907 and Nansen remarried in 1919. 
His scientific interests led him to famous expeditions, such as one across the Greenland icecap in 1888 and another to reach the Northern Pole in 1894-1896 (he got closer than anyone else at the time) with the ship Fram. During the twenty years following his return, Nansen devoted most of his energies to scientific work. He accepted a professorship in zoology at the university (1897) and in 1900 became director of the Christiania-based International Laboratory for North Sea Research.
He was involved in the process that led to the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905 and appointed Norway’s first minister in London (1906-1908). He retired from the diplomatic service in 1908, and at the same time his university professorship was changed from zoology to oceanography. Between 1910 and 1914 Nansen participated in several oceanographic voyages. 
After the creation of the League of Nations following the end of World War I, he became president of the Norwegian League of Nations Society. His advocacy helped ensure Norway’s full membership of the League in 1920 and he became one of its three delegates to the League's General Assembly.
At the League’s request, Nansen organized the repatriation of around half a million prisoners of war, stranded in various parts of the world between 1920 and 1922. In September 1921 he accepted the post of High Commissioner for Refugees. His main task was the resettlement of around two million refugees displaced by the upheavals of the Russian Revolution, and the urgent problem of famine in Russia. The lack of documentary proof of identity or nationality for many refugees prompted him to devise the Nansen Passport, a form of identity for stateless persons that allowed refugees to cross borders legally. He devised the scheme of population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922-1923. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1922. 
Nansen eats soup with orphans in Leninakan (nowadays Gyumri) during his visit to Armenia in 1925
From 1925 onwards, Nansen spent much time trying to help Armenian refugees who were survivors of the genocide. His goal was the establishment of a national home for them within the borders of Soviet Armenia. His main assistant in this task was Vidkun Quisling, the future Nazi collaborator and head of a Norwegian puppet government during World War II. After visiting the region, Nansen presented the Assembly with a modest plan for the irrigation of 36,000 hectares (139 square miles), where 15,000 refugees could be settled. The plan ultimately failed, because the money to finance the scheme was not forthcoming. After his visit to Armenia, Nansen wrote the book Gjennem Armenia (“Across Armenia”), published in 1927, and translated into English in 1928 as Armenia and the Near East (1923).
In 1926 Nansen was elected Rector of the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, the first foreigner to hold this largely honorary position. He died of a heart attack on May 13, 1930, and was buried at his home in Christiania.
Nansen Passport of French Armenian writer Arshag Tchobanian
Immediately after his death the League of Nations set up the Nansen International Office for Refugees to continue his work. The Nansen Office secured the agreement of 14 countries to the Refugee Convention of 1933. It also helped to repatriate 10,000 Armenians to Armenia and to find homes for a further 40,000 in Syria and Lebanon. The Office was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938. In 1954 the League's successor body, the United Nations, established the Nansen Medal, now called the Nansen Refugee Award, which the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees annually bestows upon an individual, group, or organization “for outstanding work on behalf of the forcibly displaced.” In 1968 Soviet Armenian filmmaker Sergei Mikaelyan directed a film on Nansen’s life, Bare et liv – Historien om Fridtjof Nansen. A street in Yerevan bears the name of the great Norwegian explorer and humanist.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Occupation of Yerevan (October 1, 1827)

The Russian vision of reaching the “hot waters” of the Mediterranean Sea, formulated during the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725), achieved its initial objective in the period from 1804-1828, when the region known as Transcaucasia (now called South Caucasus) was conquered from Persia and incorporated with the Russian Empire. This included, indeed, Eastern Armenia.
The treaty of Gulistan (1813) incorporated the region of Gharabagh to Russia. The rest of Eastern Armenia was conquered during the Russo-Persian war of 1826-1828. With British financial support, Persian crown prince Abbas Mirza launched the hostilities without previous declaration of war in July 1826. After Persian initial success, Czar Nicholas I (1825-1855) sent General Ivan Paskevich (1782-1856), who had distinguished himself in 1807-1814 during campaigns against Turkey and France, as second in command. He took the chief command in early 1827 and the Russian troops started advancing in territory of the Khanate of Yerevan.  
In April 1827 the monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin was occupied without resistance, and Yerevan was first besieged from April to June. Paskevich joined Russian general A. I. Krasovky in June and occupied Nakhichevan. However, Krasovky was forced to raise the siege due to the condition of his troops. He left one regiment at Etchmiadzin and retired further north. 
Abbas Mirza attempted a counterattack, planning to take Etchmiadzin and Gyumri, plunder Tiflis and return to Tabriz via Gharabagh. Krasovsky was forced to return south in August to relieve the garrison of Etchmiadzin. Despite the inferiority of troops (2300 Russians against 30000 Persians), the Russians were able to cut their way through at the battle of Oshagan, losing half of their number. They relieved Etchmiadzin, while the Persians withdrew south with a loss of just 400 men. 
Paskevich returned to Etchmiadzin in early September. He moved east and, after capturing Sardarabad, he appeared before the walls of Yerevan on September 23. The fortress was located on a rocky shore of the Hrazdan River, and had double walls and a moat. After shelling the fortress, the Russian command suggested Persians to capitulate. The garrison and residents asked Hasan Khan to surrender, but the khan turned down the suggestion of capitulation, hoping to resist until the arrival of the Persian army.

Capture of Erivan Fortress by Russia, 1827 (by Franz Roubaud)
After a week of siege, disorder broke out in Yerevan on the morning of October 1. The Armenian population of the city forcefully demanded that Hasan surrender the city. Armenian and Persian citizens took up arms and occupied the already destroyed part of the eastern wall. The Persian garrison refused to fight and Russian troops entered Yerevan. Hasan Khan and his army laid down their arms in front of the Russian before the main mosque. Four thousand prisoners were taken. 
After this victory, advancing Russian troops crossed the Arax River and entered Persian Azerbaijan, seizing its capital Tabriz. Paskevich arrived later with the main Russian forces. Persia sued for peace, but the negotiations dragged on due to the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-1829. However, the Russian occupation of Ardabil and Urmia forced Fath-Ali Shah to accept all peace conditions, according to the Treaty of Turkmenchay (February 10, 1828). For the victory in the Russo-Persian war, Paskevich was awarded the St. George Order of the 2nd class and the title of Count of Yerevan. He also received a million rubles and a diamond-mounted sword. 
The khanates of Yerevan and Nakhichevan went to the Russian Empire, and Yerevan became the capital of the newly-created Armenian Province until 1840. After short-lived administrative changes, the Yerevan Governorate would be created in 1849, again with Yerevan as capital of a territory that included both Persian khanates.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Referendum on the Independence of Armenia (September 21-23, 1991)

On August 23, 1990, the “Declaration on the Independence of Armenia” approved by the Supreme Council (former Supreme Soviet) of the Republic of Armenia initiated the process of independence according to the legal framework established by the Soviet Constitution, which was assumed to last up to five years.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last First Secretary of the Soviet Union, organized a referendum to preserve the Soviet Union, held on March 17, 1991, to ask whether the constituents considered “necessary the preservation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics.” Six republics, including Armenia, boycotted the referendum, which nevertheless had almost 70% of approval in the remaining nine republics. On March 1, the Supreme Council had issued a resolution to organize a referendum to allow Armenia to legally secede from the USSR.

The preparations in the spring and summer were not only on a legal and organization level, but also took the form of an ideological struggle. The new democratic authorities led by the Armenian National Movement (ANM), which had come to power in August 1990, struggled both against those forces that considered independence a dangerous and meaningless movement, or pushed for a declaration of independence without referendum. The legalist position of the Armenian authorities and the steps taken towards the establishment of democracy were heavily praised by the international press, since they did not leave room for any opposition from Moscow and ensured an orderly transition.

The month prior to the referendum was heavy in changes that impacted on the public reception: the successful resistance of democratic forces against the failed putsch of August 1991 in Russian that tried to re-establish the old Soviet order; the recognition of the independence of the three Baltic states; the proclamation of independence by the Supreme Councils of various republics, et cetera.

The campaign for the “Yes” multiplied its efforts in the first twenty days of September, and the declarations by public figures and organizations from Catholicos Vazken I to the Writers Union had a cascade effect that countered the anti-propaganda of Moscow agents and anti-independence forces. Levon Ter Petrosian, president of the Supreme Council, issued a declaration on the evening of September 19: “… We are taking a decisive step, which must be followed with the proclamation of the independence of Armenia by the Supreme Council. But we are all aware that independence is not a goal in itself for us. Independence is just a means to reach Freedom, because the supreme goal is freedom. Only the independent statehood of the nation may ensure freedom for each individual and people. We do not go towards independence with sentimentalism; we go with awareness, rationality, and true political calculation . . .” 

The organization of the referendum fell upon the Central Electoral Committee headed by the vice-president of the Supreme Council, Babken Ararktsian. The referendum was orderly held and in a festive environment. On the third Saturday in September 1991, people across Armenia left their homes to do something they had never done before: vote in a referendum. Old and young alike crowded voting stations, determined to make their voices heard. Even newly married couples, still attired in wedding garb, set aside time to cast their vote. The 117 observers invited from more than two dozen countries and international organizations did not report any irregularity and noted that Armenia was the only country holding a legally binding referendum.

The participation in the referendum of September 21 was 95.4 per cent of legally registered voters (2,163,967 people), and 94.39 per cent of them (2,042,627 people or 99.51% of the actual voters) voted “Yes” to the question posed to them: “Do you agree that the Republic of Armenia becomes an independent, democratic state out of the U.S.S.R.?”

Armenia had become independent by the will of its citizens. On Monday, September 23, the results of the referendum were introduced to the session of the Supreme Council, which passed the historical decision:

“Faithful to the declaration on the independence of Armenia, based on the norms of human rights and free determination of nations, with the goal of creating a democratic, juridical society, on the grounds of the results of the referendum held about coming out of the U.S.S.R. on September 21, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia proclaims the Republic of Armenia an independent state.”

September 21 became, rightfully, a holiday. The Supreme Council addressed the population in the following terms, which were an anticipation of what Armenia would see in the next twenty-five years:

“The return to identity will not be easy. We are just starting to walk on the road of freedom. The path crossed by civilized humankind shows that this is not a matter of one day and, especially, it is not an easy road. Therefore, prudently incorporating the experience of progressive states, we must be able to maintain and enrich ours. Yes, we are going towards the family of the entire humanity, but under our own flag, with our independent statehood and our own profile. New trials wait for us on the road of freedom. This will be a daily test for us. Let’s keep our enthusiasm, but let’s also be filled with realism; let’s be dreamers, but with alert judgment.”

The Soviet Union collapsed barely three months later, on December 25, 1991, and the Republic of Armenia was accepted as a full member of the international community as a sovereign state, joining the United Nations on March 2, 1992. Meanwhile, as a result of the referendum held on December 10, 1991, the Republic of Mountainous Gharabagh had also proclaimed its independence as a second Armenian state, yet unrecognized to this day.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Death of Harry K. Daghlian (September 15, 1945)

A memorial was dedicated to Haroutune Krikor “Harry” Daghlian Jr. in New London, Connecticut, on May 20, 2000, in the presence of his siblings, Edward and Helen Daghlian. Its inscription reads:

A brilliant scientist on the Manhattan

Project. His work involved the determination

of critical mass. During an experiment gone

awry, he became the first American casualty

of the atomic age. Though not in uniform,

he died in service to his country.
Harry Daghlian, Jr. was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on May 4, 1921. Soon after his birth, the family moved to New London, where he completed his primary and secondary education. His father was an X-ray technician and then supervisor of the X-ray laboratory at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital. His interest in mathematics and physics was fostered by his parents and his uncle, Dr. Garabed K. Daghlian, who was a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Connecticut College, located in the outskirts of New London.

In 1938 the younger Daghlian graduated first in his class of mathematics from Bulkeley High School and at age 17 he was able to begin undergraduate studies at MIT. He would eventually transfer to Purdue University in Indiana because he was fascinated with physics, especially particle physics. He graduated from Purdue in 1942 and began graduate studies in West Lafayette, while becoming a physics instructor.

Robert Oppenheimer, the head of the top secret Manhattan Project, was recruiting scientific personnel for Los Alamos, in a race against time to create an atomic bomb before Germany did. In 1942 physicist Marshall Holloway arrived at Purdue on a secret assignment from the Manhattan Project and worked with a group there, which included three senior level investigators, and a graduate student, Daghlian, who worked with Purdue’s cyclotron to produce deuterons. The Purdue group moved to the Los Alamos laboratory in September 1943, and Daghlian followed them a year later. He first worked as part of the “Water Boiler” group at the Omega Site, and later joined the Critical Assembly Group, also located at Omega. His last major assignment was as an assistant in preparing the plutonium core at the MacDonald Ranch House for the Trinity test in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The world’s first nuclear weapon was successfully tested in Alamogordo on July 16, 1945. World War II would come to an end almost a month later, on August 15, after two nuclear bombs had been dropped over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with an outcome of hundreds of thousands of victims.

Less than a week after the end of the war, while Daghlian was continuing his research at Los Alamos site, he was involved in a deadly accident while doing experiments concerning the critical masses of a sphere of plutonium and the building of a radiation shield with tungsten carbide bricks.

On August 21, after doing two criticality tests in the morning and the afternoon, Daghlian decided to do the third tests in the evening, after hours, for reasons unknown. While close to finishing the construction of the assembly, the addition of the fifth brick showed the possibility that this would be beyond the levels of criticality. He accidentally dropped the brick into the center, triggering a critical reaction. He pushed the brick from the assembly with his right hand, but this was not enough and he was forced to disassemble the pile by hand to stop the reaction.

The young scientist received a dose of 510 rems of neutron radiation while he was solving the potentially very dangerous issue. He was rushed to the hospital, where he immediately showed symptoms of acute radiation poisoning. His right hand began to swell and he developed overwhelming nausea. The high dose received made it impossible to effectively treat him. His symptoms worsened, and after horrifying physical deterioration, he passed away on September 15, 1945, at the age of 24. As his memorial inscription acknowledged fifty-five years later, Harry Daghlian was the first American casualty of the atomic age. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Birth of Grikor Suni (September 10, 1876)

Coming from a family of musicians, Grikor Suni was a relevant name in Armenian music in the beginning of the twentieth century, and had an important activity in the United States during the last two decades of his life.

Grikor Mirzaian Suni was born on September 10, 1876, in the village of Getabek, in the region of Gandzak (nowadays Ganja, in Azerbaijan). At the age of two, he and his family moved to Shushi, the capital of Gharabagh. He enrolled in 1883 in a parish school and lost his father in the same year.
He studied from 1891-1895 at the Gevorgian Seminary of Etchmiadzin, where he was a classmate of Gomidas Vartabed, whom he befriended. After graduation, he organized a polyphonic choir and gave a concert of popular songs collected and arranged by him.
After pursuing private lesson in St. Petersburg from 1895-1898, he received a scholarship to attend the state conservatory, majoring in music theory and composition. He had two famed Russian composers, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov, among his teachers. Meanwhile, he was hired as choir director of the local Armenian church, and prepared arrangements of religious music. He graduated in 1904 and published a collection of popular songs in the same year.
In the late 1890s, Suni entered the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, where he remained until 1910. He composed the lyrics and music of the party’s anthem, Mshag panvor.
In 1905 Suni returned to the Caucasus, and taught music at the Nersisian School of Tiflis until 1908. In 1906 he wrote the operetta Aregnazan, based on lyrics of writer Ghazaros Aghayan, which was staged by the Armenian Theatrical Company of Tiflis.
In October 1908, fearing political persecution in Russia, Suni escaped to the Ottoman Empire with his family. He first settled in Trebizond (Trabzon), and organized concerts of Armenian choral and orchestral music in the region. In 1910 he moved to Erzerum, where he taught at the Sanasarian School during the next four years. He also continued collecting folk songs and dances, and organizing choirs.
At the breakout of World War I, the composer moved back to Tiflis, where he continued teaching and directing. He was also one of the founding members of the Society of Armenian Musicologists. After a sojourn in Tehran (1919-1920), he returned to Tiflis, but his poor health led him to move to Constantinople (1921), where he taught music and choral singing at several schools, and conducted a choir. Months after the Ottoman capital had been occupied by the Kemalist forces, in September 1923 Suni and his family arrived in the United States and settled in Philadelphia.
During the next decade and a half, the composer, who had adopted a pro-Soviet outlook as a result of his ideological affinities, participated actively in the artistic life of the Armenian American community, particularly on the East Coast. He also continued composing. A collection of choir music was published in Yerevan, in 1935.
Grikor Suni passed away in Philadelphia on December 18, 1939. Several fascicles containing songs by him were posthumously published in the 1940s in Philadelphia. One of his grandsons is historian Ronald Grigor Suny, professor of History at the University of Michigan.