Sonia Tashjian’s personal library finds a home at the Zohrab Information Center

Sonia Tashjian (née Ekizian) was born in Jounieh, Lebanon in 1929 to parents Hampartzoum and Haigouhi (née Karagosian) Ekizian who hailed from Chomachlou and Yozgat, Turkey, respectively.  Her father had emigrated to New York prior to World War I to earn money for his family.  Her mother survived the Armenian Genocide by walking in constant peril through the Syrian desert before reaching a refugee camp in Aleppo, Syria, where Hampartzoum had rescued his two surviving children, Garabed and Turvandah.  He married Haigouhi and together they had four children, Margaret, Youghaper, Sonia, and Hagop.  

Sonia Tashjian (middle back) with her father, mother, and three siblings

Sonia emigrated to New York in 1937 at the age of eight with her parents and siblings.  She graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, NY.  She married Martin Sonny Tashjian, in 1951, shortly before Sonny was deployed to Korea.  They had four sons: Douglas, Glenn, Craig, and Roger.  Sonny died in 1981 from Leukemia.  With her well known strong will and determination, Sonia re-entered the workforce and still managed to send her two youngest sons to Lehigh University.  

Sonia Tashjian in 1950

Sonny and Sonia were among the founding families of St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, NJ.  She later became an active member of St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, where she was a member of the women’s guild for 30 years.  Sonia’s faith in God and never-give-up spirit got her through several illnesses, including her final battle with COVID-19 and its aftermath.  She died peacefully on the morning of July 29th, 2020.   

Sonia Tashjian later in life

Sonia was an exceptional bibliophile, as evidenced by her collection of over a hundred Armenian-related books that were donated by her son Douglas to the Zohrab Information Center in 2021.  Several titles were original contributions to the Center’s library, e.g., The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan, and Source Records of the Great War, Volume III (an anthology of official documents for the year 1915, with a chapter dedicated to the Armenian Genocide).  

Title page of The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan, from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

Many other titles were in better condition than the Center’s copies, such as George M. Mardikian’s autobiography, Song of America, which also included the original 1956 dust jacket.  

Front cover of Song of America by George Mardikian, from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

Others were earlier editions than books in the Center’s collection, such as the two-volume travelogue Armenia: Travels and Studies by H. F. B. Lynch. Sonia had the first edition from 1901, while the Center had previously only held later editions.  

Front cover of Armenia: Travels and Studies, vol. 1 by H. F. B. Lynch from the Sonia Tashjian Collection
Title page of Armenia: Travels and Studies, vol. 2 by H. F. B. Lynch from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

One of the most intriguing dimensions of Sonia’s collection was the compilation of book-related ephemera: book catalogues of bygone decades, correspondence, and order receipts with Armenian book dealers spanning from 1961-1982, notably seller Mark Armen Kalustian in Arlington, Massachusetts, with whom Sonia exchanged extensive correspondence and was a loyal customer of many years.  

Sonia Tashjian correspondence with bookseller Mark Kalustian
Sonia Tashjian correspondence with bookseller Mark Kalustian
Bookseller Mark Kalustian order form and correspondence with Sonia Tashjian
Bookseller Mark Kalustian order form and correspondence with Sonia Tashjian

Sonia’s collection, both the books and the ephemera, are a magnificent testament not only to the strength of life pulsating through the 20th century Armenian-American community, but also to the love and care of one extraordinary woman toward that community and its literary heritage. Her personal library of Armenian books, collected over a lifetime, has now found a permanent home in the Zohrab Information Center’s research library. 

“Artsakh: Angel of Peace” – A Photography Exhibit by Dr. Marina Mchitarian on May 26th at 7:00pm (ET)

On May 26th, 2022, at 7:00pm a photography exhibit entitled “Artsakh: Angel of Peace” will debut at Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, organized by the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, with a wine and cheese reception. Featuring photographs taken before and after the war and highlighting Armenian cultural heritage now under Azerbaijani control, Dr. Mchitarian’s photographs nevertheless offer an inspiring message of hope.

Dr. Marina Mchitarian is an independent researcher and the founding president of “Action for Peace,” an Armenian NGO. After completing her Ph.D. at the crossroad of mathematics and mathematical modeling, she pursued postdoctoral studies in archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) and conducted research in archaeometallurgy at Ghent University (Belgium). 

Fluent in four languages (Armenian, Greek, Russian, and English), she worked for fifteen years for the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. By curating a personal documentary of photographs from three Genocides (Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian), she was drawn into the work of safeguarding cultural heritage. She worked for three years for the Dutch NGO ‘’Walk of Truth’’ (The Hague, The Netherlands), whose mission is to protect cultural legacy in zones of conflict. 

Her documentary photography project “Peace and Photography” featured Artsakh and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, which had exhibit-presentations in New York, London, Thessaloniki, Yerevan, and Shushi (Artsakh). 

Since February 2020, she has worked as an independent researcher investigating religious freedom, religious diplomacy, ecumenism, peace and reconciliation, and the endangered Christians of the Middle East. In August 2020, she registered the NGO ‘’Action for Peace’’ (Human Rights, Humanitarian Aid and Peace-building) in Armenia. Through her NGO, she has conducted documentary photography and oral history projects in Artsakh: “Women of Artsakh: War, Identity and Peace” in September 2020 and “Nostos: The Aftermath of the War” in January 2021. She also collaborates with NYC-based Save Armenian Monuments, which operates under the auspices of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.

Some of Dr. Mchitarian’s previous work may be viewed here:

Memory in Action. From Mush to Artsakh, from the Desert Generations to the Independence Generations

Can Memory Trigger a Genocide Prevention? (Documentary photography project)

Peace and Photography (Documentary photography project)

Hellenes of Armenia (Documentary photography project)

A Letter from Kars dated February 11, 1917

Last month, I was approached with a request to translate a letter written in Kars in 1917, from one Sarkis P. Jigarjian to his daughter Araksi (Arax), after a fire had erupted on the family property, causing the loss of several buildings (though not the family home or anyone’s life). The letter is written in the Kars dialect and contains several words of foreign origin (particularly Russian and Turkish). That the letter was written in haste after a sleepless night is evidenced not just by the numerous spelling errors and grammatical irregularities,[1] but by Sarkis’ own words in the final lines where he describes his state as like that of a drunken man and apologizes for his bad handwriting. Despite this statement, the handwriting is rather beautiful and mostly legible.[2] 

The Jigarjian family portrait, circa 1910, with Arax seated between her parents.

Descendants of the Jigarjian family who produced the letter also provided the following background information: “This is believed to be the last letter Sarkis wrote to his youngest and favorite child, Arax. We suspect that the fire he reported was a result of arson. At some point within the following year or two, Sarkis was murdered. His murderers were identified as Turks by his wife who then fled Kars and lived her remaining days with her daughter, Arax, and her family.”[3]   

World War I and its immediate aftermath was a time of upheaval and instability in Kars, when the city was a heavily contested site between the Ottoman and Russian Empires and then the young Republics of Armenia and Turkey.[4] In February 1917, when this letter was written, Kars was part of the Russian Empire, then considered to be an important strategic outpost and fortress for the empire in the Caucasus. In the wake of the instability caused by the Bolshevik Revolution in late 1917, the Turks looked to expand their position eastwards and shortly after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918) occupied Kars on April 25, 1918. This may have been when the letter’s author, Sarkis Jigarjian, met his bitter end. A year later, with British assistance, Kars became part of the First Republic of Armenia on April 28, 1919. But on October 30, 1920 it fell with little resistance to the Turkish Republic, within whose borders the city remains to this day.

The Caucasian Front in World War I, 1914–1918 [from Robert H. Hewsen, Armenia: A Historical Atlas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), map 221, p. 229.]

Below is a digitized scan of the two-page letter, written on Sarkis Jigarjian’s business letterhead, followed by a transcription and translation, which should be of interest both to scholars as well as the general public. Any corrections to the translation or transcription may be made in the comments below or by private email to

— Dr. Jesse S. Arlen

[1] In fact, there is no punctuation in the letter, which reads as one very long sentence.

[2] I would like to thank Vartan Matiossian, Nareg Seferian, and Sonya Martirosyan for their many helpful suggestions and especially for their assistance with the Russian words in the letter.

[3] Private communication; 20 April 2022.

[4] For a historical survey of Kars in this period, see Richard G. Hovannisian, “The Contest for Kars, 1914–1921,” in Armenian Kars and Ani, edited by Richard G. Hovannisian (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2011), 273–317.

11ըն փետրվարի 1917.


            ԵՒ ՈՐԴԻՔ

       — ԿԱՐՍՈՒՄ —

Սիրելի որդեակ իմ Արագսի,

Ամսուն 10ին երեկօեան ժամը 7ին ժամանակը խօրէնը շատ զարպանձ զըվանօքը տըվեց բէրդա գընաց դուռը բացէց իսկուն ներս եկաւ եւ ասաւ որ մեր հաեադին մէջ պաժառ կա իսկուն հէվէտդուրս վազեցինք որ մեր փետանօձի վրաի պալկօնը բօլօրօվ կըպերէ եւ սուր կերպօվ վառւումէ խօրէնը սկսեց այդ կրակի մէջ պալկօնը քանդել յետօ տեսանք որ չաբազանձ շատացաւ վառելը խօրէնը արմէնը ըսկըսեցին մէր փօքր հայեադի դուռը եւ քօվի նուժնիկը բօլօրօվին քար ու քանտ էրին եւ հէտօ մեր կուխնիի դըռան քօվի յօտին տախտակէ պուտկէն բօլօրօվին քանտեցին տեսանք որ շատ յուժէղացաւ պաժա[ռը] արմէնակը կամանտիրին քօվէր գընացէր եւ կամանդիրը իսկուն յիրան պառքի սալտատնէրուն հրամաեր էր եկան բօլօր վէշջիքը տարան կամանտիրի տունը ի հարկէ թան ո փօխինդ էղաւ բօլօր վէշջիքը վէրչապէս այսօր առա[ւօտ] նօրից պառքի Սալտատնէրը վէշջիքը բերին տուն դեռ եւս մէզ յայտնի չէ թէ ինչ բան չիկա միեայ[ն] թէ այս քան յիմացիր որ մէնք լավ պրծանք եւ վեշջիքը արթէն մեր կուխնիին եւ փատանօձին վրաի եղած շինութիւները բօլօրը վառվեցան քարուքանտ էրին հիմա մէր տունը բօլօրօվին սելեմեդէ ոչ ինչ կըրակ չի դիպաւ [page 2] միեայն թէ շատ չարչարվեցանք ժամը 12ին գընացինք հաճօնձը այն տեղ 2 կամ 3 ժամ իբրեւ թէ քընէցանք սիրելի Արաքսի ճան այս պաժառը շատ կը բարձրանար միեայն թէ ինչպէս բարի բաղդութիւն ունեցեր էինք որ քաղաքիս կամէնտանտը եկեր էր եւ տեսաւ որ պաժառը շատ պիտի բարձրանա իսկուն տէլէֆօնօվ ձօրի պաժառնի կամանտիրին բերել տըվեց որ պաժառը մարեցին իսկ եթէ քաղաքին պաժառի կամանտին մընայինք այս մէր սրան բօլօրն ալ կը վառէին ես քեզի տեղօվը գրեցի որ չի լինի թէ յուրիշից յիմանաս թէ ինչէ եղեր կամ ինչ չէ եղեր ավելի լավէ որ բօլօր բանը մանրամասը այս նամակօվս յայտնեցի ես այսպէս յարմար գըտա որ ինչպէս կատարվէլ եւ բօլօրը մի առ մի ձեզի տեղեկացնեմ սիրելի Արաքսի ճան դու հանգիստ եղիր այսօր էկան բօլօր վեշզիքը յիրանձ տեղերը կը տեղաւորցընենք վերչապէս Աստված բաները աջօղէ պառքի կամանտիրին եւ պարքի սալտատնէրուն եւ մէկ այլ քաղաքիս մեծապատիւ կամենտանտին վերչապէս Աստված հեռու պահէ այս տեսակ գալստական փօրձանքներէ եւ յուրիշ այլ եւ այլ գալստական փորձանքներէ Աստված պահէ. սիրելի Արաքսի ճան այս նամակս գրեցի քեզի ի միամըտութեան համ[ար] միեայն թէ գիտես թէ հարբածի պէս եմ գըլօխս դըմդըմպումէ սրա համար գիրս գէս դուրս կեաւ օտարական չէս խօմ մնամ քեզ միշտ օրհնօղ քո ծընօղ հայր։

Սարգիս. փ. Ջիգարջեանց

February 11, 1917

Sarkis P. Jigarjian 
and sons, Kars.

My dear child Araksi, 

On the tenth of the month[1] at 7:00 in the evening[2] Khoren rang the bell[3] very frantically, Berta went and opened the door and he rushed inside and said that there is a fire[4] in our courtyard.[5] We immediately ran outside and saw that the entire balcony of our woodshed had caught fire and was fiercely burning. Khoren began to demolish the balcony in the middle of the fire but when we saw that the burning had increased too much, Khoren and Armen then began to utterly reduce to rubble the small gate of our courtyard and the outhouse[6] beside it and then they also completely tore down the flock’s wooden pen[7] next to our kitchen.[8] But when we saw that the fire had grown even stronger, Armenak went for the komandir,[9] and the komandir immediately gave an order to his park[10] soldiers,[11] who came and took all our belongings[12] to the komandir’s house, and of course all our belongings got mixed up.[13] Finally this morning the park soldiers brought our belongings back home. It’s still not clear to us what all was lost but know this much: we escaped safely along with our belongings. All the structures that were in our kitchen[14] and woodshed were burnt and destroyed, but for now our house is entirely unharmed[15] and the fire didn’t touch any of it. It’s just that we were very distressed. At midnight we went to the hajonts[16] and there we tried to sleep for two or three hours. My dear Araksi, this fire was rising so high, that was our only good fortune that the city kamendand[17] had come and seen that the fire was going to grow even more and so immediately called on the phone and had the valley fire chief[18] brought over and they put out the fire. And if we had been left to the city’s fire crew,[19] everything would have burned. I wrote to you on the spot so that you wouldn’t learn from someone else what had happened. It’s better that I reveal to you in this letter the whole affair in detail, I thought it was more appropriate for me to inform you of how everything happened in order.[20] My dear Araksi, don’t be worried. All our belongings came today, we’ll finally put everything back in its place. May God grant success to these things and may God keep the park commander and the park soldiers and our city’s highly honorable kamendand safe from such apocalyptic tribulations and may God protect [us] from all other kinds of apocalyptic tribulations. My dear Araksi, I wrote you this letter to reassure you. But know that I feel like a drunk man, my head is throbbing and for that reason my handwriting came out so bad, you are so dear to me[21] and I shall ever remain your devoted father,

Sarkis P. Jigarjian

[1] i.e., February 10th (the day before he wrote this letter).

[2] i.e., 7:00pm.

[3] Zevanok (Russian, звонок), ‘bell (doorbell).’

[4] Pazhar (Russian, пожар), ‘fire, conflagration.’

[5] Hayat (Turkish), ‘courtyard, yard, sheepfold.’

[6] Nuzhnik (Russian).

[7] Putke (Russian, будка), ‘booth, shack, cabin.’ Likely referring to a ‘pen’ or other small enclosure for the sheep.

[8] Kukhni (Russian, кухня).

[9] ‘Commander, chief’ (Russian, командир).

[10] Park (Russian, парк).                                                                   

[11] Saltat (Russian, солдат).

[12] Veshjik (Russian, вещи), ‘stuff, things, belongings, possessions.’

[13] թան ո փոխինդ էղաւ. Literally, ‘became tan [yogurt drink] and polenta.’ Meaning of the idiom is uncertain— I thank Nareg Seferian for the above suggestion.

[14] Kukhni (Russian, кухня).

[15] Salamat (Arabic), ‘safe, secure.’

[16] Հաճօնցը. Uncertain meaning— perhaps a spelling mistake for hawnots (‘chicken coop’). Alternatively, it could be “at Hajis’ house,” perhaps a neighbor.

[17] ‘Commander, leader’ (Russian).

[18] Komandir (Russian, командир), ‘chief, commander.’

[19] Kamand (Russian, команда), ‘team, crew.’

[20] Մի առ մի. Literally, ‘one by one,’ i.e. bit by bit, piece by piece.

[21] Օտարական չես խօմ Literally, “You’re not a stranger, are you?” asked rhetorically. 

Upcoming Events at ZIC: Lecture, Krapar & Kini, Photo Exhibition

Mark your calendars for the following upcoming Zohrab Center events:

Mon, April 18, 7:00pm in-personLecture: “Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, Politics, and Medz Yeghern” by Dr. Vartan Matiossian at the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America: 630 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016. Reception and book signing to follow.

Mon, April 25, 7:00pm ZOOMKrapar & Kini (Classical Armenian & Wine) with Prof. Abraham Terian on Prayer 53 from the prayer book of St. Gregory of Narek, which Prof. Terian has recently translated. Register for the session here.

Thurs, May 26, 7:00pm in-personPhotographic Exhibition: “Artsakh: Angel of Peace” by Dr. Marina Mchitarian, featuring material shot before and after the 2020 war and offering a life-affirming message of hope. Includes a brief documentary screening and conversation with Dr. Mchitarian. Wine and cheese reception will accompany the viewing of the photographs. At the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America: 630 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016.

Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, Politics, and Medz Yeghern; a presentation by Dr. Vartan Matiossian

Related to a recent book he has published, Dr. Vartan Matiossian, historian, literary scholar, and Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church, will give a presentation entitled, “Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, Politics, and Medz Yeghern” at the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America: 630 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016.

Reception and book signing to follow the presentation.

The presentation will make reference to the etymology and history of the word yeghern, its use parallel to “genocide” after 1945, and its political and historical implications, drawing from a vast array of instances of its use and misuse by politicians, journalists and others, particularly Pope John Paul II, the 2008 apology campaign by a group of Turkish intellectuals, and the last four presidents of the United States.

Dr. Vartan Matiossian, a historian and literary scholar, has been Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church (New York) since 2019. He obtained his Ph.D. in History from the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia in 2006. He lives in New Jersey. He has published extensively in Armenian, Spanish, and English, including the translation of almost two dozen books and the editing of twenty-five volumes, as well as five books of his authorship in Armenian, one in Spanish, and two in English: Armenian Language Matters (New York, 2019) and The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, History, and “Medz Yeghern” (London, 2021). His next book in English, An Armenian Woman of the World: Armen Ohanian, the “Dancer of Shamakha,” co-authored with Artsvi Bakhchinyan, is coming out in a few weeks from the Press at California State University, Fresno.

Join the ZIC Book Club on the 85th Anniversary of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

2018-4 MusaDagh.001Have you always wanted to read Franz Werfel’s 1933 masterpiece, but haven’t had the chance? Were you inspired by the film The Promise to learn more about what happened on a mountain named Musa Dagh in 1915?

On the occasion of the landmark historical novel’s 85th anniversary, you are invited to join the Zohrab Center’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh Book Club on Thursday, April 12 at 7 pm in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Aida Zilelian, Elaine Merguerian, Haig Chahinian, Harry Koumrouyan, and Nancy Agabian will recite brief excerpts from the book and explain how the text resonated with them.

Franz Werfel  author of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

Others wishing to share their own responses to the book will be invited to step up to the OPEN MIC. Each participant will be limited to 3 minutes.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was written by the Austrian-Bohemian Jewish playwright, novelist and poet Franz Werfel in German in 1933.  The historical novel was inspired by Werfel’s travels to Syria in 1930, where he met countless Armenian refugee survivors of the Genocide, most of them living in wretched, hopeless conditions. The acclaimed novel brought world-wide attention to the Armenian Genocide.

Musa Dagh (Mountain of Moses) is located just inside the current border of Turkey and Syria overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. In July 1915, six Armenian villages in the region mounted a successful resistance to the attacking Turkish army by converging on the mountain. The Armenians held back the Turks for 53 days until they were evacuated by Allied French warships. The event is depicted at the end of 2018-4 MusaDagh.001the recent Genocide film, The Promise.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

The ZIC’s Forty Days of Musa Dagh Book Club grew out of a group of New York area Armenian writers who came together recently, guided by NYU Gallatin Professor Nancy Agabian and writer Haig Chahinian, to read and discuss The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Energized by the portrayal of their people fighting back during the Genocide, they talked about how Franz Werfel’s novelization touched them individually, and as a whole.

All are encouraged to read or re-read The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, and to share their thoughts and reflections on the book on April 12. Those wishing to speak are asked to contact Haig Chahinian at to sign up and/or to receive tips on reading the work. All are welcome to attend. A reception will follow.

Nancy Agabian

Nancy Agabian is the author of Princess Freak, a poetry collection; and Me as her again, a memoir. Her novel The Fear of Large and Small Nations was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction. A past ZIC speaker and friend, Nancy teaches creative writing at NYU and through her Heightening Stories workshops.

Haig Chahinian’s writing on parenting, race, and life as he knows it has appeared in The Washington Post, O The Oprah Magazine, and the New York Times. For clips, see When he’s not churning out words, he runs a career counseling practice helping people find more fulfillment at work.

Harry Koumrouyan was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, from parents who fled the Ottoman Empire. He started his career as a teacher before joining the administration

Haig Chahinian

first as a school principal and later as the head of HR. He has written two novels in French, where the Armenian theme plays an important role. He has one son, Adrien, age 28.

Elaine Merguerian is Communications Director at Asia Society, where she promotes the organization’s arts and cultural programming. Before settling in New York, she worked in Washington, D.C. for the federal and local governments, and the Armenian Assembly of America. A native of Massachusetts, she earned a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Aida Zilelian is a New York City writer. Her novel The Legacy of Lost Things (Bleeding Heart Publications) was the recipient of the 2014 Tololyan Literary Award. Her stories have been published in over 25 journals and several anthologies. She has been featured on NPR, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Kirkus Reviews. She is also the curator of Boundless Tales, the longest-running reading series in Queens, New York. She recently completed her second novel, The Last Echo Through the Plains.

Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army. Book Presentation by Adrienne G. Alexanian

2017-04 ForcedGenocide-page-001Adrienne G. Alexanian will present her newly-edited book, Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, April 6 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Forced into Genocide is the the riveting memoir of Alexander’s father, Yervant Edward Alexander, an eye-witness to the massacre and dislocation of his family and countrymen in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. Incredibly, Alexanian experienced the Armenian Genocide as a conscript in the Turkish army. His memoir is a one-of-a-kind “insider’s account” documenting the Genocide’s astonishing cruelty—but also its rare, unexpected acts of humanity.

Already widely-acclaimed by such notable figures as Dr. Taner Akçam, Dr. Vartan Gregorian, Eric Bogosian and Andrew Goldberg, this book, with its utterly unique perspective, includes rare documents and photos that the author preserved.

Yervant Alexanian was born in Sivas, Turkey. He survived the Hamidian massacres as an infant to later fight for survival as a conscript in the Ottoman Turkish Army during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. He fled to America in 1920, where he spent his life advocating justice for his people.


The book features an introduction by Dr. Sergio La Porta, Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies at Fresno State University; and a foreword by the Genocide scholar Israel W. Charny.

Adrienne G. Alexanian, editor of the book, is an educator and is active in charitable, educational, volunteer and cultural endeavors within the Armenian community in New York, where over the years she has served on dozens of committees and boards. She received the Ellis Island Award in 2010. She spent years preparing her father’s manuscripts for publication.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow Ms. Alexanian’s presentation, and books will be available for sale.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.

Genocide and Immortality? Dr. Roberta Ervine to Open ZIC Autumn Enrichment Series

The Zohrab Center’s Autumn Enrichment Series will begin on Tuesday, September 27 with a presentation by Dr. Roberta Ervine entitled, In the Harsh Light of Genocide: Armenian Thoughts on Immortality.

2016-09-ervineanmahutiwn-001Dr. Ervine is Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. She is a regular lecturer at the Zohrab Center.

The Genocide forced Armenians to reconsider their human experience in the light of mass death and dislocation. In an insecure and threatening world, what can one depend on? Is there a life after death, and if so, who is in charge of it? Where does it happen? What is it like? What qualities make a person, a community, or an ethnic group immortal? Does immortality have anything to do with faith? How does immortality relate to traditional Armenian religious teaching, if at all?

Prof. Roberta ErvineOn an almost week-by-week basis, Armenian periodical literature from the 1920’s and 1930’s records the process by which these questions worked themselves out in the minds of survivors and Diaspora Armenians alike.

Rereading this long forgotten body of writings, Dr. Ervine will explore the new, post-Genocide thinking on the topic of immortality, and look at where Armenians turned to find inspiration and consolation in the uncertain decades immediately following the Genocide.

Since 2001 Professor Roberta Ervine has taught courses on
Classical and Modern Armenian Language, Church History, and Armenian Theology and Spirituality at St. Nersess Seminary in Armonk, New York. She earned her PhD in classical Armenian Studies from Columbia University and has done extensive research on topics related to medieval Armenian studies. She pursues topics related to the history of Armenians in Jerusalem and the intellectual tradition of the Armenian Middle Ages.

2016-09-ervineimmortality-001During the Spring  she was the Henry K. Khanzadian Kazan Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno.

Dr. Ervine’s presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York on Tuesday, Septmeber 27, 2016. All are invited to the event, which is free of charge. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.

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Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music. June 9

0205KomitasThis season’s final Zohrab Center enrichment evening will be devoted to the legacy of the celebrated and beloved Armenian priest-musician-composer, Komitas Vartabed.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha will present a talk entitled, Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, June 9 at 7PM.

Komitas is a central figure in the history of Armenian music, particularly the sacred music of the Armenian Church. His contributions span liturgical, folk, and even concert music. Surprisingly, despite his universal admiration today, during his lifetime his work earned him the ire of church officials and his fellow clergymen, who frequently denounced him as a musicological firebrand and moral deviant.

KomitasVartabedPerhaps more significant than his work inside Armenia, however, is his legacy to the global Armenian diaspora. While controversial during his lifetime, Komitas was uniquely positioned to preserve Armenian music from the oblivion of genocide. Were it not for his oft-condemned inclination to transcribe and transform the music of Armenia, that vast tradition may well have perished in the attempted destruction of the Armenian people.

Much research exists on the life of Komitas, and on Armenian music as a separate entity, but there remains a relative paucity of work to place the two in context with one another. Ms. Bozian-Murtha will survey and sort through the biographical, musicological, and historical research on the composer and his impact on Armenian music. Analyzing the composer’s original compositions and transcriptions along with secondary biographical sources and historical data, she asserts that the very survival of Armenian music in the aftermath of the Genocide is a direct result of Komitas’s labors. 

2016-05 MaranciVigilantPowersFlyer.001.jpeg.001CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha is a PhD candidate in History at St. John’s University (New York). She holds a B.A. in History and Music and an M.Ed. from Manhattanville College (New York). Following her undergraduate work, she earned an MA in Music History from Hunter College, where she wrote her master’s thesis on the life and work of Komitas Vartabed. 

The program will be held in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. All are welcome to attend the free event, which will be followed by a reception.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.

The Survivor: The Lesser-Known Armenian Genocide of 1918. Book Presentation on June 2

2015-05 SurvivorCohenBefore the dust of the great Armenian Genocide of 1915 had settled, Armenians suffered yet another mass murder, this one farther east. In 1918 Turkish Ottoman soldiers occupied the city of Khoy (in Armenian, Her) in extreme northwest Iran and massacred the Armenians that had lived there for centuries.

Noted author and journalist Rosemary Hartounian Cohen’s memoir, The Survivor, tells the true story of her grandmother Arousiak, who witnessed and survived the carnage of that second Genocide. The author will present her book at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, June 2 at 7PM.

Arousiak was an 18-year old, recently married to an affluent and devoted Armenian man. Her blissful life in Khoy was shattered by the events of 1918. Her poignant story captures the drama and pathos of a young Armenian family’s struggle to survive against persecution and hate. Ultimately, it is a tale of the vindication of love, family and a glorious past.

Rosemary Hartounian Cohen is an award-winning author, journalist and accomplished artist. In addition to The Survivor, she is the author of several historical novels: Korban: The Life of Liana, Terrorists or Martyrs, The Mother of Jerusalem is Crying, and Anoush: The Daughter of King Shen. Dr. Cohen received her doctorate in sociology from the Sorbonne in Paris and is the founder and director of the Liana Cohen Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes music and art to support grieving families and survivors of all forms of violence and tragedy including victims of drunk-driving, and addiction.

The book presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York, on Tuesday, June 2 at 7PM. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of The Survivor and others books by Dr. Cohen will be available for sale. A reception will follow the presentation.

2015-05 SurvivorCohenTo download a color flyer CLICK HERE.

For further information contact the Zorhab Center at or (212) 686-0710.