Seven Who Made History

Aleksandr Myasnikyan

The first episode in the series focuses on Soviet Armenian statesman Aleksandr Myasnikyan. An Armenian from Nor Nakhijevan (Rostov-on-Don), Myasnikyan was sent to Armenia by Lenin in 1921. His mission was to implement a more moderate approach toward governance, in line with Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP). Myasnikyan inaugurated the NEP era in Armenia, allowing the republic to rebuild and stabilize after the 1915 Genocide and the experience of the First Republic.

Shushanik Kurghinyan

A native of Aleksandropol (Gyumri), Shushanik Kurghinyan was a prominent Armenian writer, feminist, and social activist. Inspired by the 1905 Russian Revolution, she became a tireless advocate of the working people and advocated for their cause in her poetry. She was also a staunch advocate for women’s rights, and she cared for Armenian refugees fleeing the 1915 Genocide in Rostov-on-Don. She later returned to Armenia, at the urging of her old friend Aleksandr Myasnikyan, during the NEP period.

Nersik Stepanyan

Born in Elizavetpol (today Ganja, Azerbaijan), Nersik Stepanyan was an Armenian Bolshevik activist and Party theoretician. A participant in the Russian Revolution in the Caucasus, Stepanyan later became known for his sensitive approach toward national cultures and traditions. A fearless public intellectual, he was also the most vocal critic of Soviet Georgian leader Lavrentiy Beria within the Soviet Armenian political elite. Tragically, Stepanyan’s arrest by Beria’s men in the summer of 1936 set the stage for the Stalinist Purges in the republic.

Aghasi Khanjyan

A native of Van in Ottoman Armenia, Aghasi Khanjyan arrived in the Armenian republic as a refugee. Attending Gevorgyan Seminary at Etchmiadzin, he was quickly drawn to revolutionary activity and soon became a member of the Bolshevik Party. By the early 1930s, Khanjyan had ascended to the post of Armenia’s First Secretary and became a popular leader known for encouraging a flexible policy toward Armenian national expression. His death at the hands of Georgian leader Lavrenti Beria in 1936 became a pivotal moment for Soviet Armenia during the years of the Stalinist repressions.

Stepan Shahumyan

This episode explores the “Lenin of the Caucasus” – Stepan Shahumyan. Originally from the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Shahumyan would forge his revolutionary legacy in Baku, as the leader of the Baku Commune during the Russian Revolution and Civil War. However, the story of Shahumyan is not only the story of the Baku Commune. He also played an instrumental role in developing the Bolshevik (and later Soviet) policy on nationalities. Executed by the British-aligned Socialist Revolutionaries in the Turkmen desert, Shahumyan continues to live on in the monuments and memories of Armenia today.

Anastas Mikoyan

A disciple of Shahumyan, Anastas Mikoyan was a native of the village of Sanahin, in the historical Lori region of Armenia. A survivor from Il’ich Lenin to Il’ich Brezhnev, he became renowned both in the Soviet Union and internationally for his role as a consummate diplomat and his management of foreign trade. However, less well-known has been Mikoyan’s role in Armenian affairs. Although forced by Stalin to participate in the 1930s repressions in Armenia, he would later become the major force behind de-Stalinization in his native republic. He also worked behind the scenes as an informal lobbyist for Yerevan in Moscow, securing key support for Armenia from the Kremlin.

Yakov Zarobyan

Born in Artvin (today northeastern Turkey), Yakov Zarobyan and his family fled as refugees to Rostov-on-Don. Later, the young Zarobyan began his career as a worker in NEP-era Ukraine. Eventually becoming a Party activist, he became engaged in the affairs of Soviet Armenia and rose to the position of the republic’s First Secretary in 1960. It was from that position that Zarobyan forged greater ties between Soviet Armenia and the Diaspora, and advocated for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Although his tenure in Armenia was short, it would truly have a lasting impact on the republic.

The series is hosted by historian Pietro A. Shakarian and produced by Sona Nersesyan.

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