Hakobyan and Paruyr Harikyan at the renaming
ceremony of the school in Kashatagh.
"A society existing within the limits of
fear can't have hope for independence. But we
must have hope. For the struggle, we have to make
sacrifices and suffer."
The quote of painter Haykaz Khachatryan comes
from his only published interview, in "Mashtots"
underground newspaper, in 1989. The spirit behind
the words are a reason why - 14 years after his
death - the artists/activist is being honored.
Last Saturday (Nov. 8), the village of Haykazyan
in the district of Kashatagh, Karabakh named its
school after Haykaz Khachatryan.
Kashatagh, which commonly is known by its Azeri
name as Lachin, is a region in the corridor that
connects Armenia with Karabakh and was a strategic
territory and site of severe fighting during Armenia's
war with Azerbaijan for Karabakh independence.
After the ceasefire (which has been in place since
1994), the governments of Armenia and Karabakh
have been populating the corridor. The school,
attended by 86 students from three neighboring
villages is part of the settlement program.
"This is another thread to bind Kashatagh
to Armenia," said the head of the Kashatagh
administration Aleksan Hakobyan during the school-naming
celebrations. "The soul is flying around
some images, and it is very important for the
pupils to find Haykaz Kachatryan in those images."
Haykaz Khachatryan was the first to raise the
idea of independence in the post Stalin era. A
decorated veteran of World War II, after the war
he became bitter at Russia for not fulfilling
debts he felt it owed Armenia for its help in
that war. In middle age (he was born in 1920),
during the 1960s, Khachatryan was at the forefront
of the revival of national ideas. His convictions
clashed with Soviet idealism and he was imprisoned
for speaking his beliefs.
While many nationalists championed the cause
of Genocide recognition and the restitution of
Western Armenia, Khachatryan was speaking out
for an independent state.
On April 24, 1966, during rallies for Genocide
Recognition, Khachatryan told a crowd gathered
at the Komitas Pantheon (the Genocide Memorial
had not been built yet), that the Turks were not
the only ones to exterminate Armenians. He referred
to Soviet proscription of Armenians to the Altay
region of Russia in 1949 and of exterminations
Alexanyan on his way to unveil a memorial
plaque for his brother
Following his speech Khachatryan argued with
a policeman, and was imprisoned for 15 days. During
his imprisonment, Khachatryan proselytized young
people who had also been arrested during the April
24 rally, encouraging them to focus on independence
for Armenia. And while imprisoned, he met two
young people with whom he formed the National
United (underground) Party.
Two years later he and two associates were arrested
and sentenced and served five years in prison.
(And, five years after his release, he was again
sentenced, in 1978, to one and a half years in
prison for encouraging anti-Soviet sentiment.)
The verdict in his 1968 trial read: "The
defendants, drawn together, were constantly meeting
at Haykaz Khachatryan's house and reached a wrong
assumption that Soviet Armenia doesn't possess
equal rights in the Soviet Union, that Armenians
are being oppressed and robbed by Russians, and,
in general, are deprived from independence and
Stepan Zatikyan and Shahen Harutyunyan were arrested
with Khachatryan. Zatikyan was executed in 1978
after being accused of organizing the bombing
of a Moscow subway. Harutyunyan now lives in Los
Another veteran of imprisonment and activist
in the NUP was on hand last Saturday when Khachaturyan
"I was Haykaz's soldier. The soldiers in
NUP didn't know their leader," said Paruyr
Harikyan, who spent 17 years in communist prison.
"The first time I saw Khachatryan was in
court. He was a quiet man with a scornful attitude
towards the court. Seeing his relatives cry, he
made an announcement: 'Better people were taken,
why are you crying?' and Stepan (Zatikyan) said:
'If you are going to cry, making these scoundrels
happy, don't come to the hearings any more'."
At the peak of its activism, about 70 NUP members
were sentenced to prison - among them, Armenia's
current Prime Minister, Andranik Margaryan.
The inhabitants of the Haykazyan village, who
are mainly from Shirak, haven't heard about Haykaz
Khachatryan. They just found out about the man
after whom their school was named. The school-naming
was a big event for them, as it was the only holiday
in 7 years.
Radio is the main bond with the world here, as
there is no electricity in the village and consequently
no way to watch television.
"We are not really isolated from the world,"
says Smbat Serobyan, a father of four. "Once
a month somebody goes to the city. If only we
could get some news papers from time to time."
An underground newspaper was Haykaz Khachatryan's
"samizdat" (illegal publication). "Paros"
- Armenia's first "samizdat" newspaper
- which was published in Zatikyan's house, contained
headlines such as "The New Generation Arises"
and "Armenia Is Under a Yoke".
Khachatryan's brother, Sergey, helped publish
"I was bringing the zinc from the factory.
Haykaz was drawing the letters on it, then we
were getting the logo and printing," Sergey
And it was Sergey, now 81, who unveiled a memorial
plaque for his brother in Haykazyan last Saturday.
Tears fell from Sergey's eyes as he pulled the
cloth off the plaque honoring his brother.
"It is a happy day for me," Sergey
said. "Although many people speak against
independence and say that we didn't need that,
Haykaz's work is obviously being appreciated today".