- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 November 14 , 2003 

School of Struggle: Karabakh village honors an advocate of independence

Aleksan 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 in 1937.

Sergei 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 liberty…"

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 Angeles.

Another veteran of imprisonment and activist in the NUP was on hand last Saturday when Khachaturyan was honored.

"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 "Paros".

"I was bringing the zinc from the factory. Haykaz was drawing the letters on it, then we were getting the logo and printing," Sergey recalls.

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".

According to Agnes
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