LOS ANGELES–Prominent scholars and chair holders in Armenian studies examined the history and culture of the historic Armenian regions of Taron/Moush and Baghesh/Bitlis at a day-long conference at UCLA–Saturday–Nov. 22–from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Dickson Auditorium.
This second conference in a series entitled "Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces" was sponsored by the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Armenian History at UCLA and organized by Professor Richard Hovannisian. The conference attracted more than 500 audience members.
In his opening remarks–Dr. Richard Hovannisian briefly acknowledged the topic of the conference and introduced the 14 conference participants who hailed from the United States–London and Cyprus. Mark Malicoat was unable to attend.
The first speaker–Dr. Robert Hewsen Professor of History at the Rowan State University of New Jersey–presented "Taron-Plain–Principality–Vilayet." He emphasized the significance of the region’s geography in its economic development and regional politics during the Mamikonian and Pakradouni Kingdoms. Professor Hewsen has created numerous maps of Armenian historical geography.
Dr. Nina Garosian–emerita holder of the Avedissian Chair in Armenian Studies at Columbia University and the current editor of the Paris-based Revue des Etudes Armeniennes–was the second speaker of the morning session. She examined "Taron and an Earlier Current of Armenian Christianity." Garosian conveyed that Armenian Christianity–especially in Northern Armenia–was based mostly on established Christian traditions of Moush and Ashdashad. This explains Mesrob Mashdotz’ gravitation toward Taron in search of the Armenian alphabet.
The third presenter–Dr. Levon Avdoyan–Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist in the Library of Congress in Washington–has studied extensively the sources relating to the ancient and medieval history of Taron. He presented "Feudal Histories: Paying Court to the Mamikonians and the Bagratids of Taron."
Dr. Speros Basil Vryonis–currently the director of the Sacramento Speros Basil Vryonis Center for Byzantine Studies–presented "Taron and the Byzantine Empire in the 10th and 11th Centuries." Prior to his lecture–Vryonis congratulated the conference organizers and pointed out that the large number of people gathered is a great response to the entities who wish to impose their will upon universities through means of money. Vryonis described the influence of Armenia’s in the cultural and political life–especially in prominent circles–of the Byzantine Empire.
Dr. Robert Thomson–formerly the Mashtots Chair Holder at Harvard University–and currently the Gulbenkian Chair Holder at Oxford University–presented "The Role of Bitlis in the Transmission of Armenian Histories." He spoke of the high number of libraries and archive centers in Bitlis–which house the works of such Armenian historians and chroniclers as Goryun–Azatankeghos and Krikor Datevatsi.
The sixth speaker was Dr. Lucy Der Manuelian–Dadian and Oztemel Chair Holder in Armenian Art at Tufts University–who lectured on "Medieval Monasteries of Moush and Bitlis: Their Role in Armenia’s History." In illustrated presentation of historical monumen’s–she pointed out that the St. Garabed and Apostolic monasteries–renovated in 1050 by Krikor Magistrate–served as cultural centers in addition to their religious being.
Dr. Nona Manoukian from the Matenadaran or Center for Manuscripts in Armenia–lectured in English and Armenian and spoke on "Colophons of Turuberan as Historical Sources."
Professor Thomas Sinclair–who has published extensively on the historic monumen’s now in eastern Turkey and is Professor of History at the University of Nicosia–presented "The Armenia’s under the Kurdish Emirs of Bitlis" about Armenia’s in the pre-modern period. Sinclair claimed that the Kurdish Emirs provided Armenia’s monasteries with the opportunity to continue and expand their cultural activities.
In a lecture entitled "Moush in 1870s," Ara Sarafian–a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and editor of several volumes of documen’s on the Armenian Genocide–reviewed the life of Armenia’s in that period of the Tanzimat and the formation of the Armenian national constitution.
He expanded on the collaboration between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Reverend Krikor in branding Moush as a diocese and therefore the Bitlis vilayet as a center for national activities.
Through those activities in Bitlis Armenia’s were able to better their restrained lives.
Sarafian highlighted injustices committed against Armenia’s and means of protest Armenia’s used in order to revoke those injustices.
Dr. Stephan Astourian–a UCLA graduate and author of several important articles on modern Armenian and Near Eastern History–analyzed "Sultan Abdul-Hamid’s Provincial Policies in the Eastern Vilayets and the Case of Sasun."
Professor Astourian recognized the genocides of Sasun as precursor to the Genocide of 1915.
They not only brought to the world’s attention the condition of the Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire–but also sparked Armenian revolutionary movement.
Dr. Vahram Shemmassian–a UCLA graduate who wrote his dissertation on Musa Dagh and is currently principal of the Merdinian School in Los Angeles–spoke about the emigrant experience in "The Sasun ‘Pandukht’s’ in 19th-Century Aleppo." Shemmassian described the harsh life of the immigran’s in Aleppo–their will to congregate–their yearning to return to Sasun–and their contribution in the First World War. He also mentioned their great work in the Aleppo orphanages which housed survivors of the Genocide.
Christopher Walker–noted journalist-researcher from London and author of Armenia: Survival of a Nation and other works on Armenian–Karabakh–and the Caucasus–spoke on the period of the Genocide in his "The End of Armenian Taron/Moush and Baghesh/Bitlis–1915-16." He described the last efforts of Armenia’s in Bitlis against the Genocide.
Dr. David Calonne–faculty member at Siena Heights College in Michigan and student of the life and works of William Saroyan–delivered the final presentation on "William Saroyan and Bitlis." He illustrated the great influence Bitlis has had on Saroyan and his characters.
Prof. Hovannisian made the concluding remarks of the conference and announced that the third conference in the series of Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces will be on "Dzopatz Ashkharh."