Very few citizens of Yerevan know that there is a monument in Yerevan in memory of the victims of the worse crime committed against humanity. The majority of people passing by the “Paplavok” cafe’s round park don’t even notice the small monument. Some people who actually see the monument are amazed that David’s star is a little faded. They can see many holes and scratches on the monument. About two months ago, someone had tried to erase the Jewish symbol with a hammer and a sharp metal. But after he saw that it was useless, he left. Now the damage is pretty serious.
This is the first (and probably not the last) case. There have been attempts to destroy the basalt monument dedicated to the Holocaust victims for over a year and a half. The monument was first installed near the statue of Vartan Mamikonyan in the oval park. However, in the summer of 2003, the Yerevan municipality decided to get rid of it and provided that area to a rich businessman who was going to cut down the greenery there. The Jewish community of Armenia was somehow able to get permission to transfer the monument to the place where it is now and then the destructions began.
The first destruction took place on September 17, 2004-the last day of the Jewish New Year celebration when anonymous criminals painted a white cross and the “Satan” 666 number on the monument. It is quite possible that these same criminals have thrown the monument on the ground four times during a couple of months. The last time this happened was on February 11, 2005. The police came to the conclusion that the monument had just fallen on its own. The Jewish community leader and the workers at the “Paplavok” café denied that. They made the base of the monument harder and it remains standing to this day.
The hoodlums attempted to destruct the monument again in the end of November by targeting the Jewish symbol. However, it didn’t end there. In the morning of January 26, days before the international days of the Jewish Holocaust, the people passing by the monument saw the big Fascist symbol drawn with black paint. The café workers cleaned it quickly as soon as they found out what had happened. One of the workers says that they are having too many problems with this monument. There is black paint, white paint on the monument.
Vandalism against the Jews goes on all over the world where Anti-Semitism has turned into a synonym for inhumanity and unintelligence. However, there are always scandals and the presidents of the developed countries sentence the criminals. Recently, there was even chaos in Russia, which is considered to be the place where there is a lot of Anti-Semitism. A young Fascist had attacked a major synagogue in Moscow. The president of Russia Vladimir Putin and the general prosecutor are leading investigation.
No official or a famous intellectual in Armenia has condemned the criminals that destruct the monument dedicated to the Holocaust victims. Armenian authorities are lucky that the Jewish community has not spoken out against other acts of vandalism in Yerevan and other acts against Anti-Semitism. The community is afraid that that may lower Armenia’s reputation in the world.
“We continue to keep our monument clean. We don’t make any announcements because this has nothing to do with Armenian politics or the Armenian people,” says the head of the Jewish community Rima Varzhapetyan. According to her, “there is a certain group of people that is trying to make everyone believe that there is Anti-Semitism in Armenia. But that doesn’t exist here.”
The damage shown on the Holocaust monument proves that there is a problem in Armenia. In contrast to Europe and Russian, Armenia has never had Anti-Semitism customs. This is probably due to the fact that there have never been many Jews in Armenia and have not played any major role in Armenia’s social/economic life. In this regard, there is something in common between the destinies of Armenia and Israel. It appears that Anti-Semitism began in Armenia in the 1960s and 1970s. Some Soviet historians claimed that the Young Turks had been guided by the Zionists when planning out and implementing the Armenian Genocide. One thing that remains unclear is how Israel took advantage of the Armenian Genocide when founding the nation.
Many Armenian nationalists adopted this ridiculous theory. Those nationalist forces became more active during the past couple of years by spreading their Anti-Jew comments in the press. The most influential representative of the “Tribe Worshippers” Armen Avetisyan was the most talked about figure in the media throughout 2003-2004. In one of the interviews, Avetisyan threatened to exile all Jews from Armenia. Even owner of the ALM television network Tigran Karapetyan enjoyed cursing the Jews.
Armenian authorities did not wish to go against all this until the U.S. State Secretary didn’t read the annual report on Anti-Semitism in January 2005. Avetisyan was immediately arrested, kept in prison for two months and then released. He was sentenced to three years probation. Some “tribe worshippers” welcomed their leader as a national hero. Well-known political figures, including former ombudsman Larisa Alaverdyan, made comments about releasing Avetisyan.
According to Rima Varzhapetyan, that trial had a positive influence on preventing the spread of Anti-Semitism.
“It seems as though we have lived through the horrible days of Anti-Semitism,” she says.
The leader of the “Armenian Aryan Unity” political party has not made any other Anti-Semitist announcement after his release from jail. The same goes for Tigran Karapetyan who refrains from offending the Jewish community. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that this was probably the reason why there were so few journalists at the Holocaust monument on January 27.
The event, organized by the Jewish community, was dedicated to the UN’s international day for the Holocaust. According to the organizers, they had also invited the Armenian government officials and well-known public figures. However, only one of them-National Assembly MP Mkrtich Minasyan decided to be present at the ceremony.
“The Holocaust was not only a tragic event for the Jewish people, but also for humanity,” said Mkrtchyan during an interview with journalists. “We Armenians must pay a tribute to the tragedies of other people so that they will never repeat. After all, our people have lived through a genocide too.”
Minasyan, who is the leader of the National Assembly’s Armenian-Israeli delegation, also condemned the monument vandalism.
“There will always be one or two hoodlums in a city of a million citizens who commit crimes like that. That is one of the characteristics of our people.”
These kinds of announcements will not stop the vandalism, taking into consideration the fact that the authorities are not even trying to find and arrest the ones responsible. The vandalism may get worse due to another reason. The Jewish community is planning on substituting the monument with another large monument.
“It will be dedicated to the victims of all the genocides committed in the past century, including the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. We are sure that there will be nobody who will hurt this monument,” said Rima Varzhapetyan. According to her, the community has started to make donations for the construction of the monument. Currently, only the Jews have made contributions.