Զանգեր ղողանջեք, Bells, Ring out!
Սրբազան քաջերին կանչեք. Call the Pure and Brave
Այս արդար մարտին: For this just cause.
Սերունդներ դուք ձեզ ճանաչեք. Generations to come will know who they are
Սարդարապատից From Sardarabad!
Before one of the most consequential battles in the history of Armenia, the Battle of Sardarabad, on May 22, 1918, Bishop Karekin Hovsepian arrived by horseback at the military front to rally the Armenian soldiers. Catholicos Kevork V had already ordered the constant tolling of the bells of Armenian Apostolic Churches, inspiring the people and calling those able to take up arms. In the aftermath of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, there was political chaos in the region, with short-lived political entities like the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic filling the gaps in political authority. From this state that connected the territory of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the tenuous (First) Republic of Armenia was established on May 28, 1918. Many in the area were Genocide survivors from further west in the historically Armenian provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Much of the country was starving. Under these already difficult circumstances, the Ottoman Army invaded the territory that would become the fledging Republic of Armenia. It was at the Battle of Sardarabad that the Armenian Army, under the command of Tovmas Nazarbekian and with the help of many “pure and brave” volunteers who responded to the summons of the bells, repelled the Turkish attack. The nine-day Battle of Sardarabad resulted in a decisive Armenian victory, one that pushed back the Turkish army, removed the immediate threat to the capital of Yerevan, and secured the existence of the Republic of Armenia, which would be declared on May 28.
Sardarabad is rightly celebrated as a pivotal moment in modern Armenian history. Though the short-lived independent Republic of Armenia was incorporated into the Soviet Union in December of 1920, the territory of the Soviet Republic of Armenia had been secured by the victories at Sardarabad. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the present independent Republic of Armenia persisted with the territory of Armenian SSR. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the territorial integrity of the current Republic of Armenia was secured by the victory at the Battle of Sardarabad. This Friday, on May 22, the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates a “National Feast” in commemoration of the Battle and of the “Church of Armenia.” It was May 22 that Bishop Karekin Hovsepian arrived to rally the troops.
In Paruyr Sevag’s (Պարույր Սևակ) poem that was set to music as the well-known song quoted above, the ringing bells recall the historical reality of the actions of Catholicos Kevork V. Sevag also draws on a motif that emerged soon after the battle itself when he writes that “We have been struggling since Avarayr,” connecting the fifth century Battle of Avarayr and the hero St. Vartan and his companions to the modern Battle of Sardarabad. This iconic use of Armenian (Christian) history to make sense of the present works with types and tropes in the same way that many earlier Armenian Christian histories and Scriptural interpretations had. In fact, in the liturgical calendar for this Friday’s Feast Day, the same phrase, “for faith and the fatherland,” (վասն հաւատոյ եւ հայրենեաց), that is used in the commemorations of Vartanants and the Genocide is also used to describe the soldiers at Sardarabad. We have previously discussed questions of nation, and the relationship of Armenian Christian history to conceptions of the nation. Here, we merely note that this historical and exegetical use of types, tropes, and icons purposefully connects the Battle of Avarayr to the Battle of Sardarabad—both in Paruyr Sevag’s song lyrics and in the liturgical commemoration. From such a perspective, Bishop Karekin Hovsepian, arriving on horseback to rally the troops before the decisive battle is a type of St. Ghevont, the priest who was at the front lines of the Battle of Avarayr with St. Vartan. Already fifty years old at the time of the Battle of Sardarabad, Bishop (later Catholicos) Karekin Hovsepian was one of the most remarkable figures of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
|Toward Light and Life: Reflections of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian||A collection of Catholicos Hovsepian’s sermons, edited and translated into English by Dr. Roberta Ervine and Bishop Daniel Findikyan. The volume includes two short biographical accounts of the life of Catholicos Hovsepian in addition to several of his best-known sermons.|
|Khaghbakyank‘ kam Pṛoshyankʿ Hayotsʿ patmutʿyan mēj :patmagitakan usumnasirutʿyun||The major published scholarly work of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian is a three-volume masterpiece on Armenian princely families in the 10th-15th centuries, which, according to the late Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian, “brought to light four centuries of Armenian history (10-15th) that had remained in complete obscurity.” In Armenian.|
|The Battle of Sardarabad||By Jacques Kayaloff, this illustrated book is an excellent introduction to the history of the Battle of Sardarabad and its importance in Armenian history.|
Karekin Hovsepian was born on December 17, 1867 in the village of Maghavuz in the historically Armenian region of Karabakh. Today it is in the administrative region of Martakert in the Republic of Artsakh. He was born into modest means and supported in his education throughout his early years by his great-uncle Anton Vartabed. Hovespian relates that his earliest memory was of Anton Vartabed, stopping by on his way to join the brotherhood of the Monastery of Gandzasar, the most important monastery in the region, leaving young Karekin an alphabet book. Karekin began his education in an informal school in Maghavuz, but around the age of six he returned with his parents to their patrimonial village of Maragha. In Maragha, he learned from Fr. Zakaria, the village’s “educated priest” who had studied with Nersess Vartabed at Gandzasar. His great-uncle Anton, in the meantime, had become abbot of the Monastery of Amaras, where Grigoris, the grandson of St. Gregory the Illuminator is buried. Young Karekin was sent there to study with his great-uncle and another Vartabed. After a year, Anton Vartabed sent him to Shushi, to study at the main school of the Diocese. After a couple more years of intermittent study at Shushi and other villages in the region, in 1882 he went to Etchmiadzin, where his great-uncle now was, and enrolled in the Gevorkian Theological Seminary. He quickly distinguished himself as an exceptional student and scholar, even within the incredibly fertile field of students at the time: among the other students who were ordained as deacons in 1890 was the future Gomidas Vartabed!
Before his graduation, Karekin Hovsepian had already published his first article in Ararat, at the time the publication of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, entitled, “Gregory the Illuminator and the Armenian Church.” After his graduation, he began scholarly work in earnest. He gathered oral recounting of variants of the Armenian epic David of Sasoun, as well as other folklore fragments. In part through the intervention of Patriarch Malachia Ormanian, Karekin secured the ability to study in Germany. He arrived in Berlin on August 3, 1892. He studied at Leipzig University, with a total of four and a half years in Germany: four semesters in Leipzig, one in Halle, and four in Berlin. He received his PhD with a dissertation entitled, “The History of the Origin of the Doctrine of the One Will.” Returning to Etchmiadzin, he was ordained a celibate priest on November 30, 1897. He continued to do academic research. Among his pioneering efforts we can mention his studies of Armenian miniature art (he even played a role in the identification of the Zeytun Gospels, discussed here) and his use of epigraphic evidence. He collected and transcribed inscriptions at churches and monasteries throughout Armenia. With his ordination as a priest, the pattern and trajectory of the rest of his life was set: both caring pastor and erudite scholar.
From 1901-1902, he was the Diocesan Vicar of the important Diocese of Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi in Georgia), one of the most dynamic Armenian intellectual centers of the day. From 1902-1905 he was the Dean of the Diocesan School in Yerevan and in 1905 he was appointed the Dean of the Gevorkian Seminary by Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig. He returned to Berlin before the outbreak of World War I in order to publish his book An Album of Armenian Miniatures. As a result of the war, he was forced to return home in 1914 and was crucial in the efforts to care for refugees and Genocide survivors coming from Ottoman territories. In 1917 he was elevated to the rank of Bishop. As a Bishop he rode to the front during the Battle of Sardarabad, as we have mentioned—perhaps the most iconic action in his eventful and exceptional life. You can read more about the Battle here at Vemkar and find the music for the well-known song commemorating the Battle. Yet what is so remarkable about Karekin Hovsepian is that at fifty, having already accomplished so much and having become an iconic figure in Armenian history through his presence at the Battle of Sardarabad, is that he continued to do momentous work and had not yet achieved the height of his career!
Continuing to help with the war effort, he was able to convince the Turkish commander to stop the bombardment of Kars in 1920. After Soviet incorporation, he was Dean of the Department of Antiquities at the University of Yerevan in 1921. In 1925, he became a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council of Etchmiadzin and was appointed as the Primate of the Diocese in Russia, Crimea, and Nor Nachichevan in 1927. As a representative of Catholicos Khoren, he traveled the world in 1934 in order to raise money for the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin. During this trip, Bishop Karekin visited the United States for the first time. Unsurprisingly, he must have left an indelible mark on the people of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, because they elected him Primate in 1938. For seven years he served in that capacity, initiating a number of important projects. For instance, he created the monthly journal of the Diocese, Հայաստանեայց եկեղեցի, the Church of Armenia. He also began the conversation about starting a Seminary for training clergy in America—many of his public lectures and writings astutely address issues for Armenian Christians in America that are still with us today. Archbishop Karekin Hovsepian was elected to be the Catholicos of the Great See of the House of Cilicia in Antelias and left the United States in January 1945. He was consecrated Catholicos on April 8, 1945. He presided over the election for the Catholicos of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin that same year. As Catholicos in Antelias, Catholicos Karekin I continued working tirelessly on the kinds of projects that had occupied his efforts his entire life: he built the seminary there, including a library and museum; brought intellectual powerhouses to teach at the seminary; founded Sunday schools; and enlarged and improved the monthly publication of the Catholicosate, Hask. Catholicos Karekin I of the See of Cilicia passed away on June 21, 1952, leaving behind an immense legacy that includes not only his scholarly works but his efforts as administrator, primate, and Catholicos. This week, as the Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates the Battle of Sardarabad that saved the fledgling Republic of Armenia, let us also pause to commemorate one of the most remarkable actors in that Battle and in the entire past century of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin I Hovsepian.
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