The California Courier Online, February 15, 2024

The California
Courier Online, February 15, 2024


1-         We Must Keep
the Memory and Dream Alive

            To Recover
Artsakh and Western Armenia

            By Harut

The California


2-         5,000-year-old
human shelter, bones and blades discovered in Armenia

3-         Mayor Bass,
Council President Krekorian Lead Groundbreaking for TUMO L.A.

4-         Experimental
Cinema and Soviet Ideology Versus National Dignity:

            Two Films
by Hamo Bek-Nazaryan




1-         We Must Keep
the Memory and Dream Alive

            To Recover
Artsakh and Western Armenia

            By Harut

The California



There is a dispute among those who want to struggle for the
recovery of Artsakh and those who say that Artsakh is lost forever and that we
should forget about it. The latter shameful position is promoted by the current
regime in Armenia
which is responsible for losing Artsakh and is now doing everything possible to
bury its memory.

I would like to share with the readers my decades-long view
on the recovery of Western Armenia and its
parallels to actions we need to take for Artsakh.

After every lecture I have given around the world on the
Armenian Genocide and Western Armenia, some of
the attendees immediately ask: what is the point of pursuing such a lost cause,
particularly since the powerful Turkish military is occupying our historic

I respond by saying that the worst thing Armenians can do
now is to forget about Western Armenia. That
is the surest way of losing forever our Armenian territories.

In addition to doing everything possible now, Armenians need
to transmit to the next generation our demands for Artsakh and Western Armenia in order to keep the dream alive. If we
don’t, our future generations, not knowing anything about our historic lands,
will have no idea that they belong to us. Consequently, even if someday the geostrategic
situation on the ground changes and an opportunity arises to recover our lost
lands, our future generations will not show any interest in them.

Remember that for over 2,000 years, the Jewish people had
lost their homeland and were dispersed throughout the world. The succeeding
Jewish generations passed on the knowledge of their homeland to their
offspring. For more than 2,000 years, parents transmitted the memory of Jerusalem and Israel to their children and they
in turn passed it on to their children, and so on. They did not forget their
roots and history while living in exile in Russia,
Europe and elsewhere. They repeatedly told
their children and grandchildren, ‘next year in Jerusalem!’ Two thousand years later, when
the opportunity arose to recover their lands, they took advantage of it and
realized their long-held dream. Palestinians, who were and still are forcefully
displaced from their lands, are in a similar situation. They too are struggling
to keep their dream alive and are proclaiming the right of return to their
ancestral homes.

If Jewish people can keep their dream of returning to their
homeland for 2,000 years, why can’t Armenians keep their dream alive of
returning to Artsakh and Western Armenia
someday? Armenians should tell their children and grandchildren: ‘next year in
Shushi’ and ‘next year in Van’.

The question is: how can Armenians return to their lands
someday if powerful enemies are occupying Artsakh and Western
Armenia? We should not forget that nothing remains constant forever.
There is not a single country in the world that has had the same boundaries
since the beginning of history. Over the years, some countries have enlarged
their borders, while others lost their territories. Some have become large
empires, while others have disappeared from the face of the earth. But one
thing is clear: No one can claim that today’s boundaries of Azerbaijan and Turkey will remain the same
forever. Just 100 years ago, the vast and powerful Ottoman Empire was reduced
to the much smaller territory of the Republic
of Turkey. Even though it
is not possible to predict the exact date when the boundaries of Azerbaijan and Turkey will change, they will
certainly not remain the same. How will such changes come about? There are
several scenarios, such as regional wars, even world war, civil war, and
nuclear or other types of disasters. Such events have happened in the past and
will surely happen again in the future.

When changes on the ground do take place, will future
generations of Armenians know and have the memory that Artsakh and Western Armenia are part of their historic homeland or
will they be clueless, having never heard of Shushi and Van? If they are
deprived of that knowledge, when opportunities arise in the future, even if an
unlikely benevolent Azeri or Turkish leader returns those lands to our
grandchildren, they will not be interested in them, since they had never heard
of them.

In conclusion, my advice is to keep the dream alive. While
we are deprived of our lands due to the actions of our enemies, it is up to us
not to lose the memory and dream of someday returning to our lands. Let’s pass
on our demands to future generations. The enemy took away our lands, but did
not and cannot take away our memory. By forgetting about our historic lands, we
ourselves will be helping our enemies put the final stone on the grave of our


2-         5,000-year-old human shelter,
bones and blades discovered in Armenia

By Brendan Rascius


Bee)—Researchers in Armenia
recently uncovered a human shelter filled with artifacts that dates back
thousands of years.

The ancient dwelling was discovered during the
archaeological exploration of a rock shelter in the Yeghegis
Valley in central Armenia.

The shelter — found in 2020 — featured a collapsed roof and
wall-like structure, which appeared to have ancient origins, according to a
study published on February 1 in the Journal Antiquity.

In 2022, a 6-foot-deep trench was dug next to the shelter
entrance, revealing several distinct layers littered with signs of human

Approximately 8,000 animal bone shards were found at the
site, most of which belonged to goats and sheep, while others belonged to pigs,
deer and cattle. An even smaller portion were traced to canines and bears

The bone shards from four separate layers were subjected to
radiocarbon dating — the oldest of which dated back over 5,300 years.

Through this technique, researchers were able to estimate
that the site was occupied by humans for at least 300 years.

About 2,000 other artifacts were also found, including
pieces of copper, obsidian blades, beads and pottery.

“Preliminary results from the Yeghegis rockshelter
underscore the potential of this site to provide important insights into human
lifeways during the Chalcolithic,” which is also known as the Copper Age,
researchers said.

Additional excavations are planned to further explore the
site to shed light on ancient human activity in the region.


3-         Mayor Bass, Council President
Krekorian Lead Groundbreaking for TUMO L.A.


Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass was on hand for the
groundbreaking ceremony at the future home of the TUMO
Center for Creative Technologies L.A.
headquarters in North Hollywood, located at 4146 Lankershim Boulevard.

“We are committed to empowering Los Angeles’ next generation of youth to gain
skills that will prepare them for jobs in the technology industry,” said Mayor

“TUMO LA will provide much needed design and technology
education to local youth through after school and weekend programs completely
free of charge. This Center will allow Los
Angeles youth to maximize their potential by
discovering their passions for creative technologies and building the
cutting-edge skills essential for navigating the ever-evolving digital world,”
Bass added.

Mayor Bass was joined by L.A. City Council President Paul
Krekorian, Former Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, who is running for a Los
Angeles City Council seat in district 2, and TUMO Founder Sam Simonian at the

“The creation of TUMO in the East San Fernando Valley will
bring much needed creative and educational resources to low income youth and
teenagers that would otherwise not be exposed to the fantastic learning
opportunities that TUMO creates” said Krekorian. “This center will shape the
next generation of creative leaders that will keep our entertainment industry
strong and thriving.”

TUMO LA will provide much needed design and technology
education to local teens for after school and weekend programs completely free
of charge. TUMO centers globally serve more than 25,000 teens each week, in 13
centers across nine countries.

This first TUMO center in the United
States was made possible through a $23.25 million dollar
grant from the State of California, secured by
former Assemblymember Nazarian, as well as an additional $3 million dollars in
Community Development Block Grand funds from the City of Los Angeles, secured by Krekorian.

“As a former State Assemblymember of the East San Fernando
Valley, I am proud to announce the establishment of a TUMO
Technology Learning
Center in North
Hollywood. The TUMO
Technology Learning
Center focuses on placing
teenagers, aged 12 to 18 years, in control of their learning experiences and
enabling them to unlock their full potential by identifying their passions and
equipping them with the skills necessary to shape their future. This Center
will create life-changing experiences for our children and build the next
generation of leaders for our communities” said Nazarian.

Center for Creative
Technologies is a free-of-charge educational program that puts teenagers in
charge of their own learning.

Founded by engineer and entrepreneur Sam Simonian, TUMO’s
mission is to allow teens to maximize their potential by discovering their
passions and building the skills and self-confidence required to shape their

This program offers free education and training to teens in
14 different subjects, from music, filmmaking and animation to programming,
robotics and 3D modeling.



4-         Experimental
Cinema and Soviet Ideology Versus National Dignity:

            Two Films
by Hamo Bek-Nazaryan


By Lucine Kasbarian


NYC’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in recent weeks screened two
Armenian films: “The House on the Volcano” (1928) and “Land of Nairi”
(1930) directed by Hamo Bek-Nazaryan, widely considered the “founding father of
Soviet Armenian cinema.” Both films were silent with Russian, Armenian and
English intertitles and/or subtitles and accompanying music. Both contained
staged material as well as actual documentary, location footage in Baku and Armenia.

Of the many films created by Bek-Nazaryan and other Armenian
avant-garde film auteurs such as Ardavasd Peleshian, MoMA selected the above
two films for its screening showcase with the aid of a translator, Director of
the National Cinema Center of Armenia Shushanik Mirzakhanyan.

From a storytelling standpoint, “A House on a Volcano” is a
historical-melodrama-meets-disaster-film chronicling the lives and struggles of
Armenian and Tatar oil refinery laborers and their Armenian bosses’ brutal
suppression of an oil worker’s strike in pre-Soviet Baku (in what is
present-day Azerbaijan).

The title of the film refers to the highly flammable gas
leaks that circulated under the petroleum fields where the management knowingly
and precariously built nearby housing for their laborers and families. In
graphic detail, these seemingly dispensable workers were shown to be toiling 12
hour shifts a day under hazardous conditions.

The film plot, rife with Machiavellian machinations, creates
an environment of accumulative intrigues which culminate in a crashing
crescendo and chilling finale.

From a visual standpoint, “The House on a Volcano” is a
stunning, gritty, mesmerizing art film one doesn’t soon forget. Even today,
nearly 100 years after the film was produced, the close-up images of faces,
places and machines remain arresting. Creative set designs, offset in black and
white, are inventively employed using shading and light to accent scene compositions.
The repetitive motions of industrial gears grinding and oil derrick pumps
plunging into the black earth are in equal parts rhythmical, hypnotic and
terrifying. The death-defying work undertaken by the laborers is frighteningly
and effectively portrayed. According to restorer Galstyan, some movie sets were
deliberately lit on fire for actors to run through and be filmed in real time.
Viewing “The House on a Volcano” in the Millennium, one can recognize many
manners of post-modernist industrial worker and labor union imagery the world
later came to associate as uniquely Soviet.

From an ideological standpoint, the film is a Soviet
propagandist’s dream come true. Bek-Nazaryan constructs a plot that plays out a
specific vision of how racial and class divides are at the root of all evil.
Alas, students of history know too well how the overthrowing of one predominant
or exploitative group, class or race is often replaced by another, also quite
true during the Communist Revolution. In a bid to mandate Soviet brotherhood
over national unity, we see browbeaten Armenian and Tatar oil workers
overcoming their ethnic differences and joining forces to overpower their
malicious Armenian overlords—even when Armenian laborers are simultaneously
suspected of being subversives who will serve their exploitative masters at the
expense of their enslavement just to stick it to the Tatar-Azeris. Pun
intended, the actors were almost uniformly striking (not just for going on
strike) for their prominent ethnic physical features, frequently rough, coarse
or ghoulish. The film’s visual interplay between light and dark often cast
shadows on the player’s faces, giving them a dark tone, which served the
widespread notion that there was a desire by the Soviets to pejoratively portray
Armenians as the “negroes” of the soon-to-be Soviet Union.

What is telling is that during the early 20th century oil
boom of Baku,
there were many more Turkic and Jewish oil tycoons than Armenian ones. Even so,
Bek-Nazaryan chose to make the villains in “The House on a Volcano” an Armenian
oil baron and his cronies.

The  premise of “Land Of Nairi”
was to show the obstacles that Armenia
had to face and overcome as it was altered from an independent republic to a
Soviet state. Bek-Nazaryan used many of the same sorts of filmmaking techniques
as he did in “The House on a Volcano”. Nairi being one of the ancient names for
Armenia, the main character
of this film was Armenia
itself. Bek-Nazaryan created a number of raw, unrefined tableaus to demonstrate
the challenges of rebuilding a nation and conspicuously steered clear of
depicting the many glorious panoramas that characterize the Armenian homeland.

To illustrate a morally bankrupt aspect of capitalism,
Bek-Nazaryan employed ham-handed concepts to depict how American relief aid to
Armenians after WWI was both inadequate and patronizing. As flocks of peasants
opened parcels from abroad, they discovered second-hand top hats and tails and
beaded flapper dresses which were useless to the laborers as they donned these
togs and tilled their fields in bitter exhaustion. The film offered no
explanation for why Americans should assist Armenia, even though the rest of
the world knew of the massive relief aid that was sent to support the
genocided, “starving Armenians.” By the same token, Bek-Nazaryan offers many
quixotic, poetic shots of men laboring in rhythmical unison—demonstrating the
contractions of state formation—their well-built, topless torsos dripping with
sweat in tribute to the muscle grease which erected the Leninakan (Gyumri) Canal and other industrial
achievements. Bek-Nazaryan shows us the anatomy of successful communes and
collectives, mysterious saboteurs of the Canal, and also throws in gratuitous
shots of poor Armenian bumpkins transforming into doctors, lawyers and
engineers thanks to Soviet ingenuity and instruction.

“Land of Nairi” even goes so far as to state that the
hard-won, newly independent Republic of Armenia of 1918 was a fascist
enterprise that caused widespread typhus, starvation and other tragedies to
befall its citizens without mentioning the elephant in the room: these
besieged, famished, beaten, exhausted, diseased and genocided Armenians had
just miraculously fought off complete extermination from marauding Turks and
complicit Soviets, both of whom remained antagonistic and aggressive upon the
declaration of Armenian independence. This had everything to do with the state
of Armenian human health at that time. It was not the Soviets who saved the
Armenians from complete extermination in 1918, but the Armenians themselves
who, in the 11th hour—pitiful refugees, orphans and terminally ill among
them—repelled Turkish hordes from devouring what was left of Armenia while the
Russian army withdrew from Kars and ran for the hills. The Soviets wasted no
time toppling this fragile independent Armenia,
but one would never know the above from viewing “Land of Nairi.”
Witnessing the plot devices and characteristics assigned to the Armenian
principals, it was clear to this viewer that a strategic cinematic objective
was to introduce themes that discouraged Armenians from perceiving their worlds
along national, patriotic, free-thinking or entrepreneurial lines.

What we must realize is that Soviet Armenian auteurs knew
that in order to achieve prominence in the USSR in their fields of endeavor,
the national dignity of the Armenian people would have to be sacrificed.  That was the price to be paid.

Thus, we have two cinematic offerings that omit any
reference to the very real Russo-Turco hostility towards Armenia and
Armenians. Likewise for “The House on a Volcano,” the history of Armenians in
the Baku oil
industry—and what happened there to change the existing dynamic—is left
unexplained. There also is no mention of the roles Russia
and Turkey played in fomenting
the Armenian Genocide nor their designs to absorb Armenia in 1915, 1918 and 1920.

The imagery and stories told in both films leave the
unsuspecting viewer with the notion that Armenia was a savage backwater before
the Soviets came along and civilized them, creating doctors, lawyers and
engineers as if Armenians never before entered those professions. Quite the
contrary—Armenians were the most accomplished peoples of Asia
Minor and the Transcaucasus.

“The House on a Volcano” was jointly produced by Soviet
Armenian and Soviet Azerbaijani film studios in the year 1928.



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