The Forgotten Genocide: Stalin’s Assault on Armenian Culture

The dark chapter of Joseph Stalin’s reign—the Great Terror of 1937—left an indelible mark on Soviet history. Amidst the widespread purges, one lesser-known tragedy unfolded: the cultural genocide of the Armenian people. In this article, we delve into the harrowing events that targeted Armenian intellectuals, artists, and bearers of a rich heritage.

Stalin’s Target: Armenian Intellectuals and Artists

Stalin’s iron grip extended beyond political opponents. He aimed to erase the identity and heritage of the Armenian people, whose cultural roots date back to the 9th century BC. His secret police, the NKVD, executed a calculated assault on Armenian writers, poets, painters, musicians, scientists, and political leaders—those who embodied and preserved Armenian culture.

The Erasure of Armenian Identity 

Approximately 4,000 Armenian intellectuals fell victim to Stalin’s ruthless campaign during 1937-1938. Among them were luminaries like Axel Bakunts, Yeghishe Charents, and Gurgen Mahari. Their voices silenced, their creativity extinguished, they became casualties of an ideological war.

The Turning Point: Sahak Ter-Gabrielyan’s Tragic End 

The arrest and subsequent death of Sahak Ter-Gabrielyan marked a turning point. Interrogated by the NKVD, he either jumped or was thrown from a window in Yerevan. Stalin, angered by the lack of notification, dispatched overseers to purge the Communist Party of Armenia. Over a thousand arrests followed, reshaping the Armenian political landscape.

The Armenian Apostolic Church Under Siege 

Even the Armenian Apostolic Church faced persecution. While Soviet attacks against the Church had simmered since 1929, they momentarily eased to improve relations with the Armenian diaspora. However, the Great Purge spared no institution. Khoren I, Catholicos of All Armenians, grappled with the storm, balancing faith and survival.

Legacy and Remembrance

The forgotten genocide of Armenian culture remains etched in history. Stalin’s actions reverberate through time, urging us to remember the silenced voices, the extinguished creativity, and the resilience of a people who survived cultural annihilation.



  1. Wikipedia: Armenian victims of the Great Purge
  2. The Forgotten Genocide of the Armenian Culture by Stalin

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