By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The 10th annual Armenian Music Awards (AMA) program was held on February 27, at the Kremlin's Kevorkiev Hall in Moscow, with 4,500 guests in attendance. Many of Armenia's top stars entertained the large crowd with patriotic songs and musical performances for more than four hours.
This year's program, organized by Valeriy Saharyan, recognized the important contributions made by 12 individuals and organizations on the occasion of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, including:
-- Vladimir Zhirinovsky (member of the Russian Parliament),
-- Harut Sassounian (Publisher of The California Courier and President of Armenia Artsakh Fund),
-- Armenia Futura,
-- Sergey Smpatian (conductor).
Other honorees, some of whom could not be present, appeared by video or through a representative:
-- Valerie Boyer (member of the French Parliament),
-- Vigen Sargsyan (Armenian President's Chief of Staff and Coordinator of Programs organized by the State Centennial Committee of the Armenian Genocide),
-- Armenia's Minister of Culture,
-- Archbishop Ezras Nercessian (Primate of Moscow and Nor Nakhichevan),
-- Serj Tankian (System of a Down),
-- Rouben Vartanian (benefactor and businessman),
-- Artur Janipekyan (Gazprom Media Holding),
-- Ara Vartanyan (Hayastan All-Armenian Fund).
In receiving his award, Zhirinovsky had strong words for Turkey. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
"The day will come when Armenians will celebrate their festivals in the territory of liberated Western Armenia. That could be a festival bearing the name of your holy mountain -- Mount Ararat -- and could take place in Kars, Ardahan, Sassoun or Trabizon.... After the downing of the Russian jet, I would have ordered a powerful attack on Turkey. Today, very little would have remained of Turkey.... I wish the dream of Armenians worldwide would become a reality; that those who committed that horrible genocide on April 1915, during World War I, would be punished."
Zhirinovsky continued his aggressive words stating that Turkey attacked the Armenians who "were living in their homeland, in their land. But the Turks were nomads; their homeland is in Central Asia, in Tashkent. They should go there and leave Anatolia to Armenians, Kurds, and Greeks. And Constantinople should be a free city. Times are changing. It is possible that shortly this would become a reality. Armenians, no one will bother you. Therefore, the descendants of Western Armenia should prepare their documents to get back their lost lands and properties. I am not talking a lot of ‘hot air.’ I am convinced that Armenians will shortly commemorate not the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, but celebrate the liberation of Western Armenia. And the Armenian flag will fly in Kars, Ardahan, on Ararat, Sassoun, and Trabizon."
I had a hard act to follow after Zhirinovsky's powerful words. In accepting my award, I made the following brief remarks:
"Genocide is a monstrous crime which has no statutes of limitations. The Turkish government should well know that the Armenian nation will never give up its just rights. Although 100 years have passed, even if 1,000 years should pass, we will continue to demand, and struggle to regain everything that we lost. Turkey must return all our personal and communal properties -- and more importantly -- our historic lands of Western Armenia. In other words, we demand our confiscated possessions, and compensation for the murder of our 1.5 million holy martyrs."
I then urged the audience not to despair: "One hundred years ago, the powerful and vast Ottoman Empire collapsed and broke apart, turning into the Republic of Turkey within much smaller borders. With God's help and our persistent efforts, I am convinced that the day will come when today's Turkey would also collapse due to internal and external pressures. We must be prepared to take advantage of such an opportunity to liberate our historic lands. Until then, Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora should be united into one fist, so that our homeland would become a strong economic, political, and military power. Only such a powerful Armenia can take ownership of its just rights rather than begging for them."
This uplifting four-hour program was broadcast live by Armenia's public television to Armenian communities throughout the world. I am confident that the 4,500 guests at the Kremlin Hall and millions of TV viewers felt a renewed sense of determination to pursue their national goals until their eventual realization.