Virabian said that he was fired by Justice Minister Rustam Badasian on Tuesday after refusing to step down.
A spokeswoman for the Armenian Ministry of Justice, Lusine Martirosian, attributed the sacking to accounting irregularities which she said have been exposed by the State Revenue Committee (SRC).
The SRC claimed two years ago that the National Archive failed to pay 742 million drams ($1.5 million) in profit and value-added taxes. According to Martirosian, the SRC fined it more than 21 million drams as a result.
The archive’s chief accountant, Vahagn Abisoghomian, insisted that that the tax arrears resulted from a delay in government funding of the state-run agency, rather than its mismanagement. He argued that the Finance Ministry paid the back taxes after the SRC audit.
Virabian likewise denied any fraud or other financial wrongdoing. “If it was my fault why would they give me [the sum paid to the SRC?]” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The well-known historian, who has managed the National Achive for 19 years, said he will file a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry on Monday. He expressed confidence that a Yerevan court will overturn his sacking.
Virabian described the legal action as a matter of principle. He said that his employment contract was due to expire in November and that he did not plan to ask the government to extend it.
Virabian’s colleagues interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service voiced support for him and deplored his dismissal. They included Karen Khtrian, the archive’s newly appointed acting director.
There are some 350 million historical and other documents kept at the National Archive. The oldest of them date back to the 1830s.