Saturday, May 25, 2019

Inauguration of the Memorial of Sardarabad (May 25, 1968)

Every year, tens of thousands of people, whether locals or tourists to Armenia, visit the memorial to the battle of Sardarabad, the most important of the three battles that defined the creation and the independence of the Republic of Armenia in 1918.

However, it is important to remember that the history of the battle, including the memorial, was detached from the history of the republic itself during Soviet times. The construction of the memorial, located on the elevation where the heroes of the battle were buried, was a feat in itself, because of its political overtones.

The memorial is located 55 kilometers from Yerevan and 10 kilometers from the city of Hoktemberian. The latter, called Sardarabad until 1932, is the ancient city of Armavir, one of the historical capitals of Armenia, founded by the king Argishti I of Urartu (the founder of Erebuni/Yerevan) with the name of Argishtihinili.

In the 1960s, the process of national awakening was spurred by Yakov Zarobian (1908-1980), first secretary of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party, who in 1962 took the initiative to prepare the documentation and the grounds for the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Armenian genocide and the construction of a memorial.

Those materials were the basis for the construction of the memorial to the battle of Sardarabad, which was undertaken by Vladimir Darbinian (1931-2015), secretary of the Regional Committee of the party in Hoktemberian. The project started in 1965, and despite the removal of Zarobian from his position in 1966, his successor, Anton Kochinian, sponsored Darbinian’s activities.

Sculptors Samvel Manasian and Arsham Shahinian, who were well-known for their monumental creations, were hired for the project, and the famous architect Rafael Israelian, who became the architect of the project, invited sculptor Ara Harutiunian to join the team. Israelian selected the site for the memorial complex. Both the architect and the sculptors made a thorough research of the elements of pre-Christian and Christian Armenian architecture and art, coming out with artistic solutions that offered an inspirational reflection on the historical destiny of the people.

The symbolism of the victory and the historical episodes behind it were reflected in a series of elements: the stairs leading to the entrance with the powerful, eight-meter tall winged bulls on both sides; the 35-meter belfry with twelve bells, and the tombs of the heroes of Sardarabad and the modern war of Karabagh; the avenue of the heroes flanked by six-meter tall eagles; the Victory Wall at the center of the complex, with a collection of sculpture representing the battle and the rebirth of Armenia; and the museum. The complex, built with red tufa stone from Armavir, was completed with small lakes, gardens, and administrative buildings.

The complex was inaugurated on May 25, 1968, on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, and was a candidate for the USSR State Prize in 1969. 

The Ethnographic Museum of Armenia was created by resolution of the Soviet Armenian Council of Ministers in February 1978 and inaugurated on September 13 of the same year. Also projected and built by Israelian, it completed the architectonical ensemble of the complex, reproducing the main elements of Armenian traditional architecture. The museum houses a collection of more than 70,000 objects. It originally was a showcase of Armenian archaeological and ethnographical material, as well as ancient photographs and decorative art. After the second independence of Armenia, a permanent exhibition dedicated to the battles of May 1918 and the first independence of Armenia was added.