The Armenian National Institute (ANI), Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA) and Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) jointly, and in cooperation with the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, and the Republic of Armenia National Archives, announced the release of a major exhibit consisting of 20 panels with over 150 historic photographs documenting the role of the Armenian Church during the Armenian Genocide.
Titled 'The First Refuge and the Last Defense: The Armenian Church, Etchmiadzin, and The Armenian Genocide,' the exhibit explains the importance of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin during the Armenian Genocide. It also examines the vital leadership role played by the clergy during the Armenian Genocide, especially the all-important intervention of His Holiness Catholicos Gevorg V Sureniants in alerting world leaders about the massacres, effectively issuing the first 'early warning' of an impending genocide, ANI said in a press release.
The exhibit provides ample evidence of the aid extended by fellow Armenians to the refugees fleeing Ottoman Turkey as the Young Turk regime pursued its path toward the destruction of the Armenians. It is now almost forgotten that the first people to come to the aid of the fleeing and starving were Armenians across the Russian-Turkish border who welcomed their countrymen into their homes and threw open the doors to their schools, hospitals, and other facilities to house, care, and feed the hungry, the sick, and the homeless.
With testimony from survivors and witnesses, the exhibit reconstructs this particular chapter of the Armenian Genocide, a chapter often overlooked in the context of the mass deportations of the Armenians from all across Ottoman Turkey to the interior of the Syrian desert where hundreds of thousands perished from hunger, thirst, and slaughter. The episode in Van was no less tragic as the death toll was no less ferocious even after thousands seemingly reached safety only to die of exhaustion, fright, starvation, and raging epidemics as the resources in Eastern Armenia were quickly overwhelmed and Etchmiadzin transformed overnight into a vast and fetid refugee camp.
With 3 maps, 12 historic documents and news clippings, and 16 survivor testimonies, specific to the details of the events documented with over 150 photographs, the exhibit reconstructs the Armenian Genocide in a single region of historic Armenia and reveals how the people of Eastern Armenia became aware of the policies of the Young Turks during World War I. The exhibit combines images retrieved from archives and repositories in Armenia and America and connects them together in this first extensive narrative exhibit on the Armenian Genocide.
The exhibit also explores the role of the laity in responding to the appeals of the Armenian Church and reveals how the Eastern Armenian intelligentsia, as represented by figures such as Hovhannes Tumanian, the most prominent writer of his era, and the famed artist Martiros Sarian, closely cooperated with the Mother See in order to assist the Western Armenian refugees.
Numerous other important figures are also represented through photographs and testimony in the exhibit, including United States President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, American missionary in Van Dr. Clarence D. Ussher, Prince Argoudinsky-Dolgoroukov, Komitas, Alexander Khatisian, Aghassi Khanjian, and General Andranik Ozanian.