May 28 marks the establishment of the Republic of Armenia in 1918, providing us with the opportunity to look back on two monuments to the short-lived but historically important republic: Hayastani Hanrapetutʻiwn (ՀայաստանիՀանրապետութիւն = The Republic of Armenia), by Simon Vrats‘ean (ՍիմոնՎրացեան, also Vratsian or Vratzian; we will use the spelling Vratsian in this piece), published in 1928 in Paris, and the second revised edition published in 1958 in Beirut; and Richard G. Hovannisian’s 4-volume The Republic of Armenia (1971, 1982, 1996). We will also touch upon the very direct connection between these two landmark publications and their respective authors.
NAASR's Mardigian Library has over 30,000 books published over the past three and a half centuries. This includes titles published almost everywhere Armenians have lived in any significant numbers, including major centers of Armenian life (and publishing) such as Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, Tiflis, St. Petersburg, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Smyrna, New Julfa, Beirut, Cairo, Sofia, Venice, Paris, Marseilles, New York, Boston, Fresno, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and many others. In a way, these books contain the story of the Armenian diaspora itself.
While taking note of the anniversary of the capture of Shushi this week in 1992, one of the key events in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, we look back at two noteworthy books from NAASR’s Mardigian Library from the late 19th century that explore the then recent past of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabagh: KhamsayiMelikʻutʻiwnnerě(ԽամսայիՄելիքութիւններ) by Raffi and Gaghtnik‘ Gharabaghi (ԳաղտնիքՂարաբաղի) by Apresi Beknazareants‘.
Not everything in NAASR’s Mardigian Library is a book. There are also, among other things, a huge number of recordings—78s, LPs, tapes, CDs, etc., all with some Armenian connection or another. Some of these will be topics of future installments; most of them are obscure, except to specialists and collectors. For this installment we will go in a totally different direction and focus on a record that was a huge hit in its day, and its Armenian connections.