Կարմիր Կիրակի (Red Sunday)
Significance of April 24
Adolf Hilter once asked “Who after all speak nowadays of the annihilation of the Armenians?” The answer is THE WHOLE WORLD.
WE REMEMBER AND WE DEMAND JUSTICE
The first genocide of the 20th century, exterminating 1.5million lives, hopes, smiles, dreams and prayers. 24th April 1915 symbolised the official beginning of the Armenian genocide and the radical realisation of the Young Turks ambitious social engineering process which began in 1908.
Կարմիր Կիրակի (Red Sunday), the day before the British landed at Gallipoli, began with Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha giving the order for Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) to be placed under arrest. On the night of 24 April, in a first wave 235-270 Armenian leaders, clergymen, physicians, editors, journalists, lawyers, teachers, politicians, authors and others were arrested. Some notables such as Dr Nazaret Daghavarian and Sarkis Minassian along with Harutiun Jangulian, Karekin Khajag, Rupen Zartarian were removed from the prison and murdered. Several prisoners were released with the help of vrious influential people intervening on their behalf. In total 12 deportees were granted permission to return to Constantinople these were, Komitas, Piuzant Kechian, Dr. Vahram Torkomian, Dr. Parsegh Dinanian, Haig Hojasarian, Nshan Kalfayan, Yervant Tolayan, Aram Kalenderian, Noyig Der-Stepanian, Vrtanes Papazian, Karnik Injijian, and Beylerian junior.
The experience of Komitas Vardapet during the Armenian Genocide.
Komitas had been one of the key intellectuals that had been rounded up by the Young Turks on April 24. After continual suffering, one day when he was brutalised by a guard, he snapped: though he was among the few who were reprieved (after intervention by the American ambassador, one of his fans) he retreated into a paranoid world, spending his remaining 20 years in an asylum.
Soghomon Soghomonyan/Komitas (1869-1935) was born in Turkey. HIs parents were both notable musicians, and Komitas inherited their gift. He was enrolled at the Etchmiadzin seminary near Yerevan. Using the notation he had learned in the Armenian liturgy, he wrote down what he heard, devised three-part arrangements, and formed a student choir to sing them.
Komitas's output was modest: 80 choral works and songs, arrangements of the Armenian mass, and some dances for piano. And as a collector and arranger of folksongs, he did for Armenia what Bartók did for Hungary, turning simple material into bewitchingly sophisticated polyphony. After a Komitas concert in Paris, Claude Debussy declared that on the basis of a single song, he deserved to be recognised as a great composer.
When composing, he recalled observing a girl singing to her dead mother: her plangently disordered song, he wrote, "expresses the sadness of her lot, and her inner world. If other orphans had heard it, they would have joined in. But after a while, that song would be forgotten. Because for the peasant, creating a song is as ordinary and natural as casual conversation is for the rest of us." As an encapsulation of the essence of folk music, this could still not be bettered.
Performances of his work:
Daniel Varoujan Born on the 20th April 1884, Daniel Tchboukkarian was bornin a district of the Central Turkish town of Sivas called Prknig. He completed his learning at the Belgian university of Ghent where he studied economics, literature and sociology. By the age of 25 he was back in his home village teaching and, three years later, was made the Principal of one of the schools in Istanbul.
He was beginning to make his mark in Armenian literature, and he formed a group in 1914 with four like-minded friends. They produced a literary magazine with the aim of launching a renaissance in Armenian culture. They saw that their country had suffered under centuries of tyranny and dark deeds by both their own and the Turkish governments and they pledged to bring light into this darkness. Their statement of intent included the following: Varoujan wrote a number of poems that contained a clear and heartfelt message, pleading for a better Armenia, and a better and more hopeful future for his people. No better example of this was his poem The Sowing, and here are the first four verses:
He, and other poets like Siamanto, used the folklore and legends of Armenian history in their work. They had a simple aim, to tell uplifting stories that would give their countrymen and women hope that past oppressive regimes would not blight their lives again, and that Armenian culture would rise again. Tragically this was not to be.
He was one of a group of prisoners who were taken to a wood outside their village, stripped naked and tied to a tree and then made to die a slow and painful death at the hands of soldiers armed with sharp knives. Daniel Varoujan died on the 26th August 1915 at the age of 31.
Krikor Zohrab (Lawyer, writer, Ottoman Parliamentarian) “Literature must speak of the people and serve the people.”
As a lawyer, writer and member of parliament, Krikor Zohrab was an imposing and defiant voice of the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire. Born in Istanbul to a wealthy family, Zohrab was widely respected during his lifetime. With an undefeated record, he was a highly sought-after lawyer and represented and defended both large companies and individuals falsely accused by the paranoid sultanate. He was known to be a powerful orator, impressing contemporaries and others in parliament, at court and during classes at the university, where he taught. He was a fierce defender of human rights and the innocent, taking cases and speaking out forcefully about injustices against Armenians and others. As a result of his forthrightness, he had to leave the Ottoman Empire for a time in the late 1890s to avoid persecution by the authorities.
When he returned, Armenians nominated him to represent their community in the newly established parliament. Despite Turkish opposition, he became a member of parliament. He was exceptionally polymathic, a trait that manifested itself in his writing. Diverse in skill and able to move easily between fiction, essay and poetry, his written words reflected and enhanced the beliefs espoused by his oratory. But, the short story genre was where he shone brightest, and he came to be known as its master in modern Armenian literature. As a member of parliament, Zohrab furiously demanded that the arrests and atrocities that begun on April 24, 1915, be halted. His calls fell on deaf ears. He himself was arrested on May 21, 1915 and deported. The circumstances of his death are unclear, but he is believed to have been murdered somewhere in modern-day southeastern Turkey.
Atom Yarjanian (Siamonto) was born at Akn, Asia Minor, in 1878, of prosperous parents, who later moved to Constantinople. He was well educated. Abdul Hamid’s massacres made a deep impression on him. He sympathized with the revolutionary movement, and left Constantinople.
Thrown upon his own resources by his father’s death, he led the life of a poor student in Paris, Vienna, Zurich and Lausanne. When the new constitution was proclaimed in Turkey, he returned to Constantinople, devoted himself to writing, and supported his younger brothers and sisters. A volume of poems published in 1902 under the pen name of Siamanto had made him famous, and other volumes followed. After the Adana massacres he came to America and spent a year in Boston, editing the Armenian paper Hairenik. He then returned to Constantinople, and he is believed to have been among the group of educated and influential Armenians of that city who were massacred in 1915, after barbarous tortures. Siamanto was a man of lovable character, and is considered one of the greatest Armenian poets.