An incessant stream of people passed through the Tsitsernakabert memorial to the genocide victims throughout the day, laying flowers by its eternal fire surrounded by twelve inward-bending basalt columns.
The day-long procession began in the morning after a traditional prayer service held there by the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, in the presence of President Serzh Sarkisian and other top state officials. Garegin presided over a special liturgy in memory of the dead at the main church cathedral in Echmiadzin shortly afterwards.
The stark memorial perched on Tsitsernakabert Hill overlooking central Yerevan is the focal point of the annual genocide commemorations in Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora communities around the world.
In a written address to the nation issued on the occasion, President Serzh Sarkisian said the 1915-1918 killings, which Armenians also call Mets Yeghern, or Great Calamity, “had no precedents in the history of not only the Armenian people but the entire world.”
“The Ottoman Empire’s state machine carried out a plan to annihilate the Armenians through all of its structures that acted in accordance with explicit orders,” he said. “This day of 1915 became a watershed. The millennia-long history of the Armenian people was cut and divided into two parts: before and after the watershed.”
Against all odds, continued Sarkisian, the Armenians have managed to “return to the international political arena” and are now determined to prevent “a repeat of such crimes.”
Successive Turkish governments have denied a planned government effort to exterminate the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. They have claimed that Ottoman Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of siding with invading Russian troops. Accordingly, they have strongly condemned foreign governments and parliaments recognizing the massacres as genocide.
A Turkish flag was publicly burned in Yerevan on Friday evening during a torch-bearing march to the genocide memorial organized by the youth wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and attended by several thousand young people.