Did You Know? (10)

A view of Sourp Khatch (Saint Cross) medieval Armenian monastery in Crimea

By Jirair Tutunjian, Toronto

Author Joel Kotkin wrote in “Tribes” (Random House, 1992): “By the 1930s Armenians in the US were enjoying a standard of living that was not only higher than that for other immigrants but was higher than the standard of native white Americans as well.”

According to historic documents, Armenians settled in the Crimea between 1280 and 1290. Armenian gravestones discovered in late 19th century dated from 1357 to 1557. Many Crimea Armenians were merchants who established close commercial ties with Iran, Egypt, and Italy. When Ottoman Sultan Mehmed conquered Crimea (1475), he sent 40,000 Crimeans to Istanbul to help make the city a commercial centre. Most of the deported were Armenian. About the same time, a large number of Crimean Armenians moved to Poland and Moldavia.

On Sept. 24, 1896, at the age of eighty-seven, William Gladstone delivered his last great public speech. The speech in Liverpool lasted for one hour and twenty minutes; it was heard by more than 6,000 and it was recalled in the House of Commons a quarter century later as one of the best speeches of his career. His subject was the massacres of Armenians in Turkey. The speech began: “…of all the nations in the world no history has been as blameless as the history of the Armenian people…”

In Sept. 1396, the Ottoman Turks defeated the Crusader army outside Nicopolis, south of the Danube. The Crusade had been promoted by Levon VI, the last king of Cilician Armenia who had died in 1393 in Paris. He had hoped to liberate his kingdom which had fallen to the Egyptian Mamlukes in 1375.

King Drtad/Tiridates visited Rome in 66 CE at a time when Rome and Persia were vying to dominate Armenia. In Rome, Drtad was welcomed by Nero who placed a crown on his head. The Armenian king was a strongman who demonstrated his strength and martial talents by appearing as a gladiator in an arena. It’s said that he killed a violent bull by unhinging its horns.

Between 1921 and 1936, some 42,000 Diaspora Armenians settled in Soviet Armenia. In the late ‘40s, some 100,000 moved to Armenia although 360,000 people had stated their wish to leave for Armenia. Armenians recently arrived from the Middle East made coffee drinking popular in Armenia. Until their arrival, Armenia had been a tea-drinking country.

Gomidas Vartabed wrote 80 choral and songs, arranged the Armenian Holy Mass, and wrote dances for the piano. It is claimed he cracked the ancient code of “neumes” notation, denoting changes of pitch, used in the Armenian liturgical chants.

During the reign of Nicholas II (the last tsar) many Armenian schools were closed and Armenian leaders were persecuted, arrested, and sent to exile. In 1903, a law was passed to legitimize the confiscation of Armenian Church properties.

In 1905, Armenian/Tatar (Azeri) clashes were artificially provoked by Russia. In the same period the Russian army, without explanation, retreated from the Van province condemning the Armenian population to death.

Serge Rachmaninoff’s concerto No. 2 in C Minor is one of his most enduring pieces. The second movement of opus 18 in C Minor Concerto has themes from an Armenian folk song.

Modest Mussorgsky wrote “The Capture of Kars” (“Vzyatiye Karsa”) triumphal march which was edited by Rimsky-Korsakoff after Mussorgsky’s untimely death.

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