Literary Responses to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict with Arakel Minassian, Monday, March 22, 7:00pm

On Monday, March 22, at 7:00pm (ET), Arakel Minassian, M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan, will present two contemporary literary responses to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Register for this Zohrab Information Center event here:

The escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict this past year into full-fledged war resulted in devastating losses for the Armenians – the loss of land, civilian life and infrastructure, and thousands of soldiers, many as young as 18. The current peace agreement is at best a stopgap measure, and the political turmoil in Armenia continues to this day. This latest fighting was the culmination of over twenty years of prolonged stalemate that saw the solidification of divergent and mutually exclusive Armenian and Azerbaijani national narratives. Dialogue in such times proved extremely difficult, as it is now.

This talk will examine two pieces of contemporary Armenian literature dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – Hambardzum Hambardzumyan’s 2010 short story “Erku zham” [“Two Hours”] and Karen Gharslyan’s 2016 experimental piece Aterazma: Tpagrayin film [Aterazma (It’s-hate-war): Typographic Film]. These two texts, composed by writers born shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union who came to adulthood in the context of this prolonged stalemate, invite readers to find alternate forms of engagement with both the conflict and the Azerbaijani counterpart. They ask readers to see Armenians and Azerbaijanis not as eternal enemies, but as two peoples with shared histories in the region, both in the Soviet period and before. They further ask readers to see the young men manning the trenches on both sides of the line of contact as human beings sharing in terrible and prolonged suffering. By finding these common threads between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, these authors offer an alternate narrative to that of perpetual enmity.

Arakel Minassian is a graduate of the M.A. program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan, where he wrote his thesis on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in contemporary Eastern Armenian literature. His research focus has been on contemporary Armenian literature generally, and his article on a 2015 personal essay by Anna Davtyan is forthcoming in the scholarly journal Études Arméniennes Contemporaines. Arakel is also a translator of both Western and Eastern Armenian.   

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Krapar and Kini (Classical Armenian & Wine) resumes March 17th

The Zohrab Information Center is committed to the promotion of the Armenian language, in all its forms and time periods.

This month, we resume an educational program begun last year entitled Գրաբար եւ Գինի (“Krapar and Kini” / Classical Armenian & Wine). The goal of this initiative is to build and spread knowledge of the old or classical form of the Armenian language known as Գրաբար (Grabar / Krapar), while providing exposure to the vast array of literary treasures written in this form of the language from the fifth to nineteenth centuries, many of which are untranslated or even unpublished (i.e., only in manuscripts). Until today, Krapar remains the liturgical language of the Armenian Apostolic Church and therefore the Armenian faithful have a special reason to understand it.

For now, we will resume meeting on a monthly basis, with each session oriented around a different text and led by a scholar or advanced student of the language. The only prerequisite is knowledge of the Armenian alphabet. We invite you to come join us — with a glass of wine in one hand and a Krapar text in the other — as we learn together in a relaxed and congenial setting.

Meetings will be held monthly by Zoom. The next session will take place Wednesday, March 17th at 7:00PM (ET), led by St. Nersess Seminary student Garen Hamamjian. Email to be added to the mailing list & for meeting details (Zoom link, ID, password).

Image credit: The Walters Art Museum, Ms 543, fol. 7v, “Marriage Feast at Cana” 

A Panel Discussion on “Oriental Orthodox Christianity and the Problem of Racism” on October 15 at 7 PM

The Zohrab Information Center is excited to announce its next event, to be held via Zoom on Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 7 PM Eastern Time. Kicking off the 2020 Fall Series exploring Oriental Orthodox Christianity and Armenian Responses to Racism, the event is a Panel Discussion on Oriental Orthodox Christianity and the Problem of Racism. You can register for the Zoom Meeting here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Note that you need to make sure you have selected the October 15 date for the registration.

Racism, and particularly anti-Black racism, pervade American society, as the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and national debate around the murder made clear. As immigrants and people of color in the United States, Oriental Orthodox Christians have their own complicated historical and contemporary entanglements with racial identification and racism. This Panel Discussion highlights different Oriental Orthodox perspectives on race and racialization. It also seeks to think collectively about the possibility of a shared Oriental Orthodox Christian response to the problem of racism. The panel is composed of members of and experts on three of the different Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches.

Each panelist will discuss issues around race and racism relevant to their church and area of expertise, with particular attention to the question of race and racism in America. The goal of the panel is to push the conversation within in each church and to help each other consider ways to confront problems within our communities. Ultimately, the conversation will explore the possibility of a shared Oriental Orthodox Christian response to racism. We ask what such a response would look like, given the different historical experiences of each of our churches.

Each of the panelists brings expertise and experience with a different Oriental Orthodox Christian community in the United States:

Dcn. Henok Elias, of the Ge’ez Rite, alongside his liturgical and homiletical duties, is an elementary school educator, translator, editor, and writer with a MA in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University School of Law. He has a peer-reviewed article on ‘race’ in The Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, a podcast (Tewahido Bible Study) on semitic scriptural interpretation, and a podcast (Philosophy of Art and Science) that highlights multi-ethnic converts to our Afroasiatic Orthodox Christian Communion.

Candace Lukasik is a postdoctoral research associate at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork between Egypt and the United States, her first book project explores the transnational circulation of political subjectivities and religious practices through the lens of Coptic Orthodox Christian emigration. For this project, she has received a Religion, Spirituality, and Democratic Renewal Fellowship for 2020-2021, funded by the Social Science Research Council and the Fetzer Institute. In addition to academic scholarship, she has written opinion editorials and short-form essays for Anthropology News, Public Orthodoxy, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and The Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP), and is a curator for New Directions in the Anthropology of Christianity. Between 2019-2022, she will be a participant in Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center project on Orthodoxy and Human Rights, funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.

Dn. Dr. Christopher Sheklian is the Director of the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, a research library and presentation space attached to the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in New York and also serves as an adjunct professor at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. He received a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Masters and then his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago with his dissertation, “Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey.” He was ordained a deacon of the Armenian Church by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian in his home parish of Yettem, CA in 2006. Prior to his appointment as the Director of Zohrab Information Center, Dr. Sheklian was a Manoogian Post-Doctoral Fellow in Armenian Studies at the University of Michigan. He has taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and Wesleyan University. Dr. Sheklian specializes in the Anthropology of religion and secularism, studying the role of liturgy and law in the lives of religious minorities and has published on these topics.

“Ecology And Ecumenicity,” cosponsored by the Zohrab Information Center on 9/18 from 1-3 PM EDT

The Zohrab Information Center is proud to be a cosponsor of the upcoming event organized by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute. Ecology And Ecumenicity: Facing Division And Imagining Reconciliation In The Care Of Our Common Home will take place online via Zoom on September 18, 2020 at 1-3 PM EDT. The event is an online colloquium with ecologically-attentive theologians, ethicists, and community leaders from an array of Christian traditions. Originally planned in conjunction with the Zohrab Information Center’s Spring 2020 Series on the Environment, this event promises to be an important conversation about Christian environmental theology in the current moment. Dr. Christopher Sheklian, Director of the Zohrab Information Center, will be one of the panelists, putting the Armenian Christian perspective on the environment developed during in part during the Spring 2020 ZIC Enrichment Evening Series into conversation with other Christian eco-theological perspectives.

The event is free and open to the public. Register now.


The ecological crisis is, no less, an ecumenical crisis and an ecumenical opportunity. There can be no degradation nor restoration of the environment, on any scale from local to global, that does not also present a challenge of communication with and commitment to one another. The “home” (oikos) we share—however divided and acrimonious it may be—is and must be a home to all. Yet our ecological vision and efforts are often themselves divisive or inattentive to divisions that shape our capacities for response.

This roundtable will take up the urgent contemporary questions rising from the entanglement between social division (religious, political, ethnic, economic, and so forth) and ecological degradation. For instance:

  • How are we best to understand the causes and ethical entailments of our present ecological challenges through the resources offered by our (different and often disagreeing) traditions?
  • What roles are played by ecological precarity in the divisions (cultural, ethical, political, theological) between and within Christian communities?
  • How should religious communities (and conversations between communities) contribute to society’s responses to these challenges—whether at the level of a public vision of ecological integrity, or at the level of concrete challenges like food security, environmental justice, and the plight of climate refugees?
  • What ecumenical resources exist for engagement between religious communities with apparently incompatible assessments of the present ecological situation?

This special program has been generously cosponsored and co-organized by the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; the Church World Service; the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University; and the Zohrab Information Center.

Panelists Include: 

• John Chryssavgis (Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate)

• Kelly Brown Douglas (Dean, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary)

• Dawn Nothwehr, OSF (Professor, Catholic Theological Union)

• Chris Sheklian (Director, Zohrab Information Center, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern))

• David Vásquez-Levy (President, Pacific School of Religion)

For more information and for biographies of the panelists, please visit the event page on the website of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement

You can also contact Dr. Christopher Sheklian at with any questions about the program or how to register.

We look forward to seeing you for this important event!


“Engaged Theology of the Anthropocene” with Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz on 8/20 at 7 PM EDT

Processed with VSCO with b1 presetThe Zohrab Information Center is excited to announce its next Summer 2020 Enrichment Evening, a talk by Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Recovering Truth postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict (Arizona State University), titled In Theory and Practice: Engaged Theology of the Anthropocene. Originally scheduled for earlier this Spring, her talk continues the Zohrab Information Center’s recent focus on the environment and environmental theology. The talk will take place via Zoom on August 20, 2020 at 7 PM EDT. We will be using the same Zoom Meeting ID and Password that were used for Fr. Garabed Kochakian’s recent event. Please note that there are separate Zoom IDs for Enrichment Evenings and Գրաբար եւ Գինի. If you would like to receive the Zoom information, please email

Riccardi Swartz August 2020 ZIC.001

In Theory and Practice: Engaged Theology of the Anthropocene continues the Zohrab Information Center’s work with environmental theology. In recent years, the idea of environmental theology or “eco-theology” has been developed by many of the major Christian denominations. Though the emergence of this eco-theology could feel like a trendy response to the current moment, both Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (known as the “Green Patriarch” for his environmental initiatives) have argued for the deep roots of “creation care” in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. Theologically, Orthodox Christianity is one of the “greenest” forms of Christianity, but ideas about conservation and repair often do not translate into on-the-ground practices. This lecture will think through the disconnect between theology and praxis, focusing on how theological ideas of the body, earth, and cosmos can be activated in our everyday lives.

By considering the adjacent Eastern Orthodox churches, their environmental theology, and the application of that theology to our everyday lives, Dr. Riccardi-Swartz will help us to enter into existing Christian conversations about God’s creation and eco-theology in order to propel the possibility of Armenian environmental theology forward.

Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz (PhD, New York University) is a sociocultural anthropologist Headshot for ASUwho works on American religion and politics. Currently, she is the Recovering Truth postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict (Arizona State University), where she is working on how media and theology are complicit in the expansion and/or demise of democracy. In 2018-2019, Riccardi-Swartz was a Louisville Institute Fellow in the study of North American Christianity, and in 2019-2020 she held both the Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Humanities-Orthodox Christian Studies Dissertation Fellowship (Fordham University). A trained documentary filmmaker, she is committed to interdisciplinary research and methodologies that are collaborative and public facing.   


Sacred Arts of the Armenian Church, Past and Present with Fr. Garabed Kochakian on 7/21 and 7/23 at 7 PM

The Zohrab Information Center is pleased to announce an exciting two-part Enrichmentimage008 Evening on the Sacred Arts of the Armenian Church Past and Present next week, on July 21 and July 23. Both events will take place at 7 PM via Zoom. Father Garabed Kochakian, a long-serving priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church with a Masters in Art History who is himself an iconographer, is the presenter for this special summer programming. On Tuesday, July 21 at 7 PM, Fr. Garabed will offer a lecture and discussion, replete with visual slides, presenting the various forms of sacred art of the Armenian Church. These include, but are not limited to: fresco painting, icon production, manuscript illumination, and architecture. He will introduce us to these different sacred arts, talk about their development in Armenian history, and present some of the most important examples of each of these arts. Then, on Thursday, July 23 at 7 PM, he will offer a demonstration of the techniques, tools, and methods of the production of sacred arts, focusing on the writing of icons. Please don’t miss this exciting two-part summer programming!

To join us, please email zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese to receive the Zoom Meeting ID and Password. Please note that if you have attended previous Zohrab Information Center Zoom events that the meeting ID and password is different. You will need to receive the new Zoom meeting information. You will receive the Meeting ID and password by Tuesday morning. To receive this information, or if you have any other questions about this event, please do not hesitate to email

Der Garabed ZIC Presentation


Fr. Garabed Kochakian, ordained to the priesthood of the Armenian Apostolic Church in FrGarabedKochakian-300x3001976, is originally from Massachusetts. He studied graphic art at the Vesper George School of Art and Boston Museum School of Art, majoring in graphic design, before earning a BA from Iona College in New Rochelle, a Masters of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary while studying at the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and later an MA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin. As a priest, he served in parishes in Worcester, MA, in Racine, WI, as the Chancellor of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and most recently was the pastor of St. John’s Church in Southfield, MI for nearly 20 years. He has written books on Armenian sacred art and is himself an iconographer.

Summer 2020 Zoom Events

It is with great pleasure that we announce the Summer 2020 Zohrab Information Center Event Schedule. Due to ongoing uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic, all events will take place online, via Zoom. Not only does this guarantee our format for these Summer events, but it allows us to connect people well beyond the New York City Area. We hope to see our ZIC friends, near and far, join us for these upcoming events this summer!

There are two types of events planned for this summer. First, we plan a continuation of our ZIC Enrichment Evening Programming. While we may add events, at this point, we have two exciting events scheduled. First, on July 21st and July 23rd, we will hear from Fr. Garabed Kochakian on the Sacred Arts of the Armenian Church Past and Present. In this two-part event, Fr. Garabed will first offer a background discussion about the history of Armenian Christian sacred art on Tuesday evening. Since he is an artist himself, on Thursday night, Fr. Garabed will then give a demonstration of some of the techniques used in the production of sacred art. This two-part event is not to be missed! The second enrichment evening, scheduled for August 20, is a rescheduled event from our Spring 2020 Series on the Environment. Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz will present In Theory and Practice: Engaged Theology of the Anthropocene, offering insight into how environmental theology has been received in the Orthodox parishes where she conducted fieldwork.

In addition to our ZIC Enrichment Evenings, we are thrilled to announce a new initiative, Գրաբար Եւ Գինի (Krapar and Kini, or Classical Armenian and Wine), an informal opportunity to learn the basics of Classical Armenian, the language of the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. While we one day hope to meet physically and share a glass of wine around a table together, in the meantime, we are encouraged by the possibility of more people joinging us for these events. During our Krapar and Kini evenings, which will be held the Final Thursday of every month, a different scholar each month will present a text in Classical Armenian, along with a vocabulary list and one or two important elements of Krapar grammar that are exhibited in the text. This way, we will be introduced to the foundational texts of Armenian Christianity, many of which remain untranslated. At the same, we will learn some vocabulary and grammar that will slowly help us build a knowledge of Classical Armenian. These evenings are not intended as a comprehensive course, but rather as an opportunity to learn some fundamental elements of the language and to be exposed to important texts. You do not need to have any background in Classical Armenian or even Modern Armenian, other than an ability to read the Armenian alphabet. We hope you will join us, for the time being with your own glass of wine, as we explore the rich heritage of Classical Armenian literature and learn some basics of the language.

The first Գրաբար եւ Գինի evening will take place on Thursday, June 25 at 7 PM. The session will be led by Jesse Arlen, a PhD Candidate in the Near Eastern Languages & Cultures department at UCLA. We will be discussing a selection from the Lives of the Fathers, the Վարք Սրբոց Հարանց, an important collection of biographies and sayings of early Christian saints. For more information, and to sign up, please email

Summer 2020 ZIC Schedule .001

Film Screening of “Motherland” and Q&A with the Directors on 5/7

The Zohrab Information Center is thrilled to invite you to an online film screening of the documentary Motherland on Thursday, May 7, 2020 at 7 PM EDT. We will meet via Zoom and the film will be screened by the Director of the Zohrab Information Center. Following the screening of the film, which has a runtime of about 20 minutes, we will be joined by the directors of the film, Emily Mkrtichian and Jesse Soursouian for a Question and Answer session.

To participate, you will need to download Zoom ( Then, to join the event itself, you will need to enter the Meeting ID and password. To receive the Meeting ID and password, please email the Director at Please note that if you attended a previous online Enrichment Evening we will use the same Meeting ID and password. If you participated before, unless you have lost the information, you don’t need to email to RSVP. Simply join us using the Meeting ID and password at 7 PM EDT on May 7th. New participants should email the Director at

Motherland follows two women who work full-time as mine clearance officers in Nagorno-Karabakh. They put themselves at great risk in order to save the lives of countless people who use these lands to farm, collect wood, attend school, and rebuild after war. Despite their courageous work, they still face the stigma of independent, working women in a country where they are often the property and responsibility of men. In following their stories, we explore not only their dangerous work, but their lives as they wrestle with the pain of their pasts, their dreams for the future of their children and their country, and the immense joy and bonds they share.

This film is made possible in part thanks to the generous support of the Armenian General Benevolent Union and HALO Trust Nagorno Karabakh.

Motherland Screening ZIC Presentation 5.7.20 .001

The film screening has been given support by Wesleyan University and members of the University community are invited to join the Zohrab Information Center for the event. Though we are disappointed the film will not be shown on campus at Wesleyan this semester, we are thrilled to present the film to a wide audience!

We are also excited that both directors of the film will be joining us for a Q&A session after the film.

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 9.55.34 AMEmily Mkrtichian is an Armenian-American filmmaker and writer. Her films touch on themes of Memory, Place and Identity, exploring creative and collaborative ways to tell stories from marginalized communities around the globe. Her work includes the immersive, multimedia installation Luys i Luso, an exploration of music’s effect on spaces that were lost to a genocide a century before. The installation has traveled to Munich (Unterfahrt), Armenia, NYC (BRIC Arts), LA (Arts Activation fund recipient for public art), and Istanbul (DEPO Gallery). Emily also directed the viral web documentary Levon: a Wondrous Life, about 60-year-old rollerblader living exuberantly in the post-Soviet landscape of Yerevan, Armenia; and she just completed the short documentary Motherland, about the women who shake tradition and risk their lives to rid their country of landmines leftover from an ethnic war.

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 9.55.47 AMJesse Soursourian is an Armenian-American writer and director based in New York City. He wrote the script for the short film Hugh the Hunter, directed by Oscar nominee Zachary Heinzerling, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival as well as other festivals around the world. His feature screenplays have gained recognition from numerous festivals and contests including Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope, in which he was a quarterfinalist. As a director, Jesse’s short documentary, They Were Afraid of Us, screened at multiple festivals at home and abroad.


You can learn more about the film at


Nora Lessersohn to Present “Ottoman in New York” via Zoom on 4/23 at 7 PM EDT

It is with great pleasure that the Zohrab Information Center announces its next Enrichment Evening using the Video Conferencing platform Zoom. Due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the Zohrab Information Center is currently closed and all in-person activities have been suspended while we all do our part to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. With that in mind, we have moved our Enrichment Evenings online. We are thrilled that Nora Lessersohn, PhD Student in U.S. History at University College London, will give the Enrichment Evening presentation on Thursday, April 23 at 7 PM EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) online via Zoom. Her talk is entitled “Ottoman in New York: How America’s First Armenian Celebrity Brought Constantinople to Manhattan (1834-1895).”

To participate, you will need to download Zoom ( Then, to join the event itself, you will need to enter the Meeting ID and password. To receive the Meeting ID and password, please email the Director at Please note that if you attended the previous online Enrichment Evening we will use the same Meeting ID and password. If you participated last time, unless you have lost the information, you don’t need to email to RSVP. Simply join us using the Meeting ID and password at 7 PM on April 23rd. New participants should email the Director at

The event will also be Livestreamed to the Zohrab Information Center’s Facebook page.

“Ottoman in New York: How America’s First Armenian Celebrity Brought Constantinople to Manhattan (1834-1895)” will explore the life and work of America’s first Armenian New Yorker, Christopher Oscanyan. Born in 1818 in Constantinople, Oscanyan spent over half his life in New York City. During that time, he served as a writer, entrepreneur, lecturer, diplomat, and translator, and became friends with American luminaries including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Abraham Lincoln.Lessersohn April 2020 ZIC.001

Over the course of 60 years, Oscanyan dedicated himself to promoting good relations between the Ottoman Empire and the United States. Between 1853 and 1863, alone, he curated and managed an Oriental and Turkish Museum in London (1854); opened a short-lived Turkish Coffee House on Broadway (1855); authored a book, The Sultan and His People (1857); gave lectures throughout the United States on topics such as “Turkish Manners and Customs,” and “The Women of the East;” and published, right in the middle of the Civil War, an album of photographs depicting himself and others wearing traditional Ottoman attire (1863). In 1868, he was appointed the first- ever Ottoman Consul General in New York. And, as late as 1893, he even wrote the libretto for a comic opera titled “The Sultana.”

This talk will focus mostly on his work in New York City: an attempt to evoke the landscape of Oscanyan’s Ottoman Armenian Manhattan.

headshot copy

Nora Lessersohn is a PhD student in U.S. History at University College London, supported by a Calouste Gulbenkian Armenian Studies Scholarship. She earned her A.M. in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University (2015) and her A.B. in the Study of Religion at Harvard College (2009). She is writing a dissertation on the life of Christopher Oscanyan and Ottoman-American relations in the 19th century.