In Stalin’s state, it was forbidden to speak about the Armenian Genocide

In Stalin's state, it was forbidden to speakSoviet historian and political scientist John Kirakosyan was one of the first who broke the silence around the Armenian Genocide and told the world about it.

After defending his doctoral dissertation about the national-liberation movement of the Indians at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Kirakosyan got down to work in the governmental bodies of the Soviet Union. In 1960 – 69, he was the chairman of the State Committee for television and radio broadcast of Armenia. Since 1975 and until his death in 1985, he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Armenian SSR.

In those years, Kirakosyan has been engaged in a fruitful scientific activity. In particular, he wrote numerous works dedicated to the Armenian question, the fight of the Armenian nation for liberty and independence, and the Armenian Genocide. Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish government has denied the Armenian Genocide. In the Soviet Union, the situation was no better since the government had forbidden anyone to write or talk about the Genocide.

John Kirakosyan was forced to overcome the huge pressure of the Turkish anti-Armenian propaganda in order to publish his works about the tragedy of the Armenian people. Among his works were “World War I and Western Armenians” and the two-volume “Bourgeois diplomacy and Armenia.” “Armenia in documents of international diplomacy and the Soviet foreign policy” co-written with R. Sahakyan also has great value for those who are engaged in the study of the history and diplomacy of the Armenians. Finally, “The Young Turks before the court of history” is the jewel of his literary activity.

In 1981, I was honored to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a general secretary and essentially the deputy of John Kirakosyan. Many of the events of those years occurred in front of my eyes. The collective was small, and we had to translate foreign documents ourselves. As a matter of fact, John Sahakovich had a perfect command of English, Armenian, and Russian, and also studied French.

John Sahakovich was admired by the renowned people in the republic, as well as by the activists of the Armenian Diaspora. Upon arriving in Yerevan, many foreign Armenians made sure to pay a visit to him at the office. I attended some of those meetings, and it always seemed that the guests reported him on their activities, as if he was their director. The guests were also always glad to receive his approval.

I recall one particular case. In 1984, the 44-member delegation of Asian countries arrived in Yerevan from Moscow. It was accompanied by Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov, the then director of the Institute of Oriental Studies. The meeting took place at the office of the Supreme Soviet, which is now the residence of the Republic of Armenia.

John Sahakovich and I represented our ministry. A delegate from Syria said the following: “Escaping the Turkish yataghan, Armenians appeared in our country. Each of the regions they inhabited would register a rapid economic upswing. And everywhere, the presence of Armenians results in progress and heyday.”

Then spoke the representative of the Turkish newspaper “Milliyet” and asked why the Armenian government doesn’t forbid the Armenian Secret Army for Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) to murder Turkish diplomats in countries around the world. John Sahakovich answered that the fighters of ASALA function at their own initiative. He also recalled the policy of the Turkish government towards the Armenian national question and their violations of human rights, and that the Turkish representative should have those in mind.

Two days later, we again met with the delegation in a less formal format. At some point, the Turkish representative approached us and said in French: “I apologize, I shouldn’t have asked that question.” This man later became the minister of foreign affairs of Turkey.

In 1978, John Sahakovich along with the Soviet delegation participated at the 33rd United Nations General Assembly where he would give a speech about the brotherhood between Soviet nations.

Being the minister of foreign affairs, John Sahakovich often met the collectives of Armenian organizations, giving them lectures on the international position of Armenia. He readily answered all the questions about the Armenian Question and any other issues. Those meetings lasted a long time, and he always left them exhausted yet satisfied with his interaction with people.

While on governmental positions, John Sahakovich maintained his connections with the youth and also taught at the Yerevan State University. He gave lectures in the faculty of oriental studies, and even students from other departments attended his classes.

Writing his works, John Sahakovich involved an expansive range of written sources on the history of Armenia and the Armenian Question by both Armenian and foreign authors. He spent a lot of time in libraries to find those books. The scientific employees of the Miasnikyan library – now the National Library – knew him well and helped him find the required books. They even said: “This is the only minister who regularly works in the library.”

Having a strong and integral personality, John Sahakovich was a simple man. He was kind, attentive, sensitive, and was always ready to help common people. He also was a diversified person, a huge patriot, a deep expert of the Armenian history and diplomacy, a man of great abilities. He was a hard-working politician with a broad mindset. But most importantly, his mission was to serve his country and people.

 Sergey Simonyan

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