GLENDALE—On May 22, the Glendale Central Public Library presented Armine Koundakjian’s book, “The Repression of Armenian Repatriates During the Stalin Era.”. The cultural director Elizabeth Grigorian organized the said gathering. A full capacity audience filled the library’s hall before the specified time. Gregorian had sent fliers and e-mails to a large list at her disposal announcing that the language of the talk was going to be in Armenian.
Koundakjian, started her remarks by giving the purpose and the reason for her research. She said that the survivors’ situation came to her attention by a chance meeting during a public protest gathering in Yerevan at the site of a memorial dedicated to the memory of the mass arrests and deportations on June 14, 1949. She stressed the fact that the survivors are dying off and their stories must be immortalized and preserved as a grave historical reminder. She summarized the historical background of the events right after the loss of the Republic’s independence in 1920, the reasons behind Stalin’s decision to allow the repatriation and the reasons for stopping it. She showed a list of many writers, doctors, scientists, university professors, political officials, artists, poets, engineers, teachers, school headmasters, clergymen, lawyers, women, huge number of peasants, laborers and even photographers, who were persecuted or sent to Siberia gulags or shot by firing squads. In other words, the cream of the crop of the society was eliminated. The repressions which took place from 1920-1953 in the Soviet Armenia were equivalent deeds to the genocide which the Ottomans had committed, this time in our homeland by the hands of Soviet Russians and Armenian communist operatives. The infamous Migoyan had a hand in increasing the deportation of thousands of innocent repatriates by arbitrarily setting the “quota” of arrestees by 500 a week, in order to please his boss Stalin. The repressions struck a severe blow to the economy and the human potential of Armenia. Together with all the havoc, Armenia lost a portion of her territory to the Turks and Azeris which has become a bone of contention up to this day.
This book includes a few samples of the mock-trials, the first person biographical accounts of 10 survivors, with a CD of three of them in their own voice. It also includes sample letters of forgiveness appeals and complaints to “Father Stalin,” samples of rehabilitation papers, interviews with others studying the materials concerning the repressions, interviews with the relatives of the survivors, and the remarkable story of the longevity of the famous children of the repressed survivors.
The excited patriotic repatriates went back to the Motherland by thousands (the non-official number says around 200,000) to rebuild the country with their skills and labor, instead they faced inhuman harsh treatment and exile to Siberia’s labor camps where thousands perished.
The unique importance of this book which took 3 years of hard work for Armine to finish and publish, is the fact that no one had told the story of the repatriates before.
This book has been translated into Russian and English and is available in bookstores in Yerevan, Armenian bookstores in the U.S., Tehran, Beirut, and Amazon.com. Koundakjian has gifted the book to all libraries in Armenia and U.S.
At the end of her talk, there were quite many questions from the audience. Elizabeth Grigorian had a surprise presentation for the author in the form of a Certificate of Recognition from Assemblyman Mike Gatto.