May 28, 1918 symbolizes a heroic moment in our history, when an army of brave Armenians led by patriotic military leadership and inspired by a call to arms issued by HH the Catholicos of All Armenians Gevorg V, managed, against all odds, to overcome a series of formidable political and military events culminating in their victory at Sardarabad. Despite the decimation of the Armenian people through genocide, exposure to both sides of the Turko-Russian border during World War I, the Russian Revolution and the ensuing political realignments in Transcaucasia, this hard-won battle gave rise to the birth of the First Republic of Armenia. It was a moment unseen since the fall of the Kingdom of Cilicia in 1375, when Armenians lost their sovereignty.
AGBU, a relatively young organization at the time, played a vital role for Armenians at the turn of the century thanks to the maturity of its leadership and impressive reach of its network. Boghos Nubar Pasha, the founding president, was called upon to lead the national delegation in post-war negotiations with Allied forces to free the Armenian provinces from Ottoman bondage. He took the initiative to organize the Legion D’Orient, an Armenian volunteer corps that heroically served under French colors. With the help of AGBU chapters and committees outside of the region, the organization was able to provide relief and resettlement efforts for orphans and genocide survivors both in the new republic as well as refugees scattered throughout Middle East. It later was involved in the repatriation movement when the First Republic was integrated into the soviet system in its second incarnation as a nation state.
The true significance of May 28 can only be fully revealed and appreciated through the long lens of historical perspective. Today, we can more clearly comprehend how securing these precious lands under Armenian authority, even for only a short two years, set the Armenian Nation on a new course that has brought us to the quarter century of independence that we enjoy today.
“It should also not go unnoticed that this 100th year anniversary happens to coincide with the same year in which Armenian statehood reached a new level of maturity as everyday citizens of Armenia exercised their right to free expression and peaceful civic engagement with their government”, noted AGBU President Berge Setrakian. “Their measured actions showed the world that ensuring a strong state that can withstand pressures from both within and without is the responsibility of each and every citizen.”
Although the First Republic was short lived, thanks to the stewardship of its leaders ensured that the land and people remained distinctively Armenian in the 70 years to follow. This paved the way for our present republic, reborn as a free and independent nation state. AGBU salutes the leaders of the First Republic and all those lost in battle for a cause that would only bear its full fruits and gifts to the Armenian Nation a century later.
To read the statement in Armenian (Western), click here.
To read the statement in Armenian (Eastern), click here.