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The Eighth Annual Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture

Sponsored by
the Near East Section
African and Middle Eastern Division
Library of Congress

Mumford Room
James Madison Memorial Building
April 19, 2000, 7:00 P.M.


" Armeniaca and the Library of Congress: 1999-2000" and Introduction
Levon Avdoyan
Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist
"Twenty-Six Months in the Reborn Armenian Republic: My Mission as First United States Ambassador to Armenia"
Ambassador Harry J. Gilmore (Retired)

Program Notes:

Harry J. Gilmore served as ambassador to the nascent Republic of Armenia from 1993-1995. Now retired from the Foreign Service, he nonetheless served as the chair of the Caucasus Area Studies course at the Foreign Service Institute of the Department of State. He also serves as a consultant and as an expert analyst for the media.

In his thirty-five year distinguished Foreign service career, Ambassador Gilmore held a number of senior positions before he became the first United States ambassador to Armenia. He served as Deputy Commandant for International Affairs, United States Army War College (1991-1992); United States Minister and Deputy Commandant of the United States Sector, Berlin (1987-1990); after Germany's reunification, Principal Officer, United States Embassy Office, Berlin (1990-1991); and Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy, Belgrade (1981-1985).

Ambassador Gilmore is married to Carol Louise Kunz. They have three children and three grandchildren.

"Armeniaca and the Library of Congress: 1999-2000"
Levon Avdoyan

Welcome Ambassador and Mrs. Gilmore; Ms. Gray, Dr. Brown, ladies and gentlemen.

I find it astounding yet satisfying that we meet again, this time for the eighth annual Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture. This fact is only one proof of the continuing legacy which Marjory Dadian left because of her generous bequest from her husband's estate in 1992 for the health and maintenance of the various Armenian collections of the Library of Congress. Of course, those of you who remember the non-existent second Vardanants Day Armenian lecture–canceled because of a February ice storm, will also recall that that disaster was the reason to change - not without comment, I should add - the date of this hallowed Armenian holiday to April. Well, this year I managed to schedule the event not only on the first night of Passover, but also during Congressional Recess! My apologies to all our Jewish and Congressional friends who could not join us this year. Let us hope that before I retire I will have mastered the rudiments of scheduling.

I usually usurp a few minutes of our guest speaker's time to report on activities associated with the Armenian collections since last we met. This has been an unusually active time for us, and I should like to survey rapidly what has been accomplished.

Of course, it is our fundamental mission, after service to Congress, to collect the world's intellectual gifts, preserve them, arrange them, and make them available to our scholars and researchers. Thanks to the continuing advocacy of Ms. Gray, Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division, Dr. Brown, Acting Director for the Area Studies Directorate, and James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress himself, we have been remarkably successful in increasing our collections. I estimate, and here I believe I am being conservative, that we have doubled our Armenian language items since 1993. Another of Mrs. Dadian's legacies.


With Ms. Lola Pickering in place as our acquisitions specialist, I now have a colleague on whom I can depend to carry out what we in the African and Middle Eastern Division's have determined the philosophy of acquisitions from this region of the world. Moreover, our now not quite new cataloger, Dr. Paul Crego, has been working assiduously with both of us to survey, remove duplicates, and catalog our old and our new acquisitions to make them available to all of you. So, as I first described us last year, the triumvirate is still in place.

I also had the pleasure of going on an acquisitions trip last fall to Jerusalem to confer with His Beatitude, Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michael Stone, Professor of Armenian Studies at Hebrew University, and Sylva Manoogian of the Gulbenkian Library. On to Cairo, for an extensive and frenetic tour of various Armenian organizations arranged by Laila Mulgaokar, the Overseas Director of our Cairo Office, and Araxy Deronian, our acquisitions specialist there, which allowed me to survey the vast resources of the truly remarkable diasporan community of Egypt. Trips to the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna and to bookstores in Paris completed this successful tour whose results are only now being assessed: among other accomplishments, we have an agreement to receive all missing volumes of publications from the historic and influential Sts. James' Monastery in Jerusalem; we have procured a major private collection of Armenian works from former editors of Husaber in Cairo; and we have identified and are making plans to complete our Mekhitarian collection from both Vienna and Venice. All this together with contemporary items from the Republic of Armenia purchased from our approval plan dealer account for our success. I am not too humble, however, to tell you, as I did in Jerusalem, Cairo, Vienna, and yes, even in Paris, that we would welcome any items as gifts and donations, most importantly, of out of print and rare items.

In terms of programs (the icing on the cake): the continuing LC Armenian seminar of last November, called to discuss the present state of the Republic, gathered members of the scholarly and professional communities to share and discuss and grow in a safe haven and calm refuge where no political posturing is permitted. One of the LC Mellon fellows this year, administered by our Office of Scholarly Programs, was Dr. Lynn Jones, who is working on the imagery of kingship in Bagratid Armenia; Dr. Jones discussed her findings in an open seminar only yesterday; this May 24th, the next LC Armenian seminar will showcase 3 scholars from Armenia–Drs. Garnik Asatryan, Raya Amirbekyan, and Ms. Victoria Arakelova, as they address the important and little discussed topic of Armeno-Kurdish historic and cultural relations.

And Vardanants: This, too, shall continue. I take pleasure in announcing that next year's speaker will highlight yet another aspect of Armenian life. In celebration of the 1700th anniversary of Armenian Christianity and of Armenia as first Christian state, Sahan Arzruni, noted pianist, musicologist, and raconteur will give a talk–with accompaniment, of course, on Armenian liturgical music.

We have also redesigned our web page to be able to share with you electronic bibliographies, guides, reproductions and selections from our collections and the texts of many of our Vardanants presentations such as those delivered by Ronald Suny, Krikor Vardapet Maksoudian and Nina Garsoian. I trust you will make a habit of visiting the Near East Section website once these materials are mounted.

This should suffice to illustrate only a small part of the active presence of things Armenian at the Library. It remains only to remind you that we are here first, of course, for Congress, and then for all of you. Please use us. Our beautiful new reading room has space for you and our resources are at your disposal. All relevant contact information appears on the back of tonight's program. I welcome all your inquiries. And please, before I schedule next year's Vardanants Lecture, let me know of any and all impossible dates for next April! And as for this year's, my thanks to the Armenian National Committee for allowing us to reproduce the map from their important Transcaucasus: A Chronology, and the St. Mary's Armenian Church, for the goodies you will (I hope) enjoy after the lecture.

For now, as we celebrate on April 24th the Library of Congress' bicentennial, we must all realize the continuing debt we owe to Mrs. Dadian and to her husband, Arthur H Dadian for all that has been accomplished.


Now to what you really came to hear! I will not reproduce our guest speaker's list of accomplishments. First, because the most relevant appear in tonight's program. Second, because his very nature, when asked, yielded a concise and, I am convinced, incomplete list. When I asked Ambassador Gilmore to address us tonight, I believe his exact words (or as close as I can get) were, "I'd love to, but Levon, I am not a scholar." Precisely. The Vardanants Lectures were set up to discuss all topics relating to Armenia, and I can think of no better person to paint us a picture of what it was like to be among the first crop, if you will, of Americans sent out to establish diplomatic relations with these newly independent states. With his modesty; his record of hard work and keen insight; with his recognition – rare among political analysts of our times – that to know the present is to study the past, with his impartiality yet warmth and friendship, we can explain why, in his far from docile retirement, he is responsible for the training our the younger diplomatic corps assigned to the Caucasus and Central Asia, and why, after the horrific events of last October in the Parliament, the Jim Lehrer News Hour chose to interview him and no one else. His calm assessment, amongst those of conspiracy theorists, still hold true.

It is a true pleasure, then to present a gentle man, and a gentleman, a scholar in his own way, and America's first Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, Harry J. Gilmore.

Map of Armenia
(originally appeared in the "TransCaucasus: A Chronology." Compiled and written by Richard Giragosian. Edited and designed by Christopher Hekimian. ISSN 1078-3113

"Twenty-Six Months in the Re-born Armenian Republic: My Mission as the First US Ambassador to Armenia"

Ambassador Harry J. Gilmore (Retired)

President Bush nominated me as the first United States Ambassador to The Republic of Armenia in the summer of 1992. If everything had gone the way the Bush White House and State Department had intended, I would have arrived in Armenia late that summer with the other ambassadorial nominees to the newly independent states. But my papers did not get to the Senate in time. Instead of having my hearing with the other United States Ambassadors-Designate to the Caucasus, Central Asia and Moldova, my nomination lapsed with President Bush's departure from office and I lost my status as Ambassador-Designate to Armenia. Although deeply disappointed, I hoped that President-Elect Clinton would re-nominate me and set about acquiring a basic knowledge of spoken Armenian and a deeper understanding of Armenian history. I also read all I could about the Armenian-American community and the various organizations representing it. President Clinton did nominate me again and by the time I appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations for a hearing in May 1993, I knew how effective the Armenian community was, notwithstanding its great diversity, in the advocacy of Armenian interests before the Congress.

My Goals in Armenia

The statement I submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for my hearing set forth the basic goals of my mission: spearheading the United States effort to meet Armenia's emergency humanitarian needs in the face of blockades stemming from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; encouraging Armenia and its neighbor, Azerbaijan, to work for lasting peace and security for their peoples through good faith negotiations; and establishing a strong United States-Armenian relationship based on democracy, human rights and economic reform in accordance with free market principles. I also had a more personal goal which I did not articulate publicly at the time: engendering among the people of the reborn Armenian Republic, with whom we had had little contact for seventy years, confidence in the United States as a reliable, long-term friend and partner.

When Carol and I arrived in Yerevan in late May, 1993 Armenia was in deep distress. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was in full tilt. Azerbaijan had closed its border with Armenia already in 1991 during an earlier stage of the conflict, and Turkey had just closed its border, citing Armenian forces' occupation of the Kelbajar region, the area between Karabakh and Armenia. The energy situation was precarious and so was the supply of food, including bread, the staple of the people's diet. A massive United States humanitarian assistance effort was already gearing up, and it was clear that the crisis situation in Armenia would peak again in the coming winter as it had the previous winter.

Humanitarian Assistance /Winter Warmth

The centerpiece of our many-faceted effort to assist the people of Armenia was to be our Winter Warmth program: the provision of kerosene and kerosene heaters to particularly vulnerable elements of the population. These included families living in domiks, (makeshift, temporary shelters for victims of the devastating December 1988 earthquake); nursing mothers; families with small children; invalids; the very elderly; and schools. Working very closely with the Armenian Government we did our utmost to purchase the kerosene and portable heaters and get them to Armenia in timely fashion. The winter of 1993-94 was unusually cold and, unfortunately, we could not transport the kerosene from Georgia's Black Sea ports across Georgia to Armenia as quickly as we had hoped and planned. This was not the fault of the Georgian Government which was well disposed toward our efforts and itself suffering from the lack of reliable rail transportation from its ports to Tblisi, its capital.

January 1994 was the most difficult period of my service in Armenia. In a press interview published on January 29 I explained to the Armenian people the causes of the delay in kerosene shipments, noting that significant quantities of the kerosene had been in the port of Batumi since December and emphasizing that the first shipments should be arriving soon. To the immense relief of all of us involved, the kerosene began flowing in early February and we succeeded in delivering a total of 35,000 metric tons during the remainder of 1994. Some of it was pre-positioned for the next winter's program. In the course of the remainder of the winter I visited kerosene distribution sites in Yerevan, the capital, and Spitak and Gyumri in the earthquake region. I vividly recall talking with one elderly lady in the kerosene line in Spitak on a windy, bone-chilling day. She was dressed only in several layers of sweaters, a babushka and hand-sewn cloth gloves. But the warmth of her smile and her message that the kerosene was helping keep her extended family alive buoys me even today.

The United States humanitarian assistance effort has been extensive and quite successful. Large quantities of kerosene, fuel oil, gas, and wheat and other commodities have been delivered, often through almost super-human efforts of many Americans, both officials and members of non-governmental organizations in Washington, Armenia, and Georgia, where American military personnel assigned to the On-Site Inspection Agency helped assure the security of rail cargoes shipped from Black Sea ports to Armenia. This assistance made a difference. It helped sustain the lives of the most vulnerable elements of the population and it had a tonic effect on the Armenian people as a whole and their government, as well. During my stay in Armenia, the United States Government also began a major program of development assistance, and today the emphasis in our extensive assistance program properly has shifted to economic reform and development.

The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholicos of All Armenians, Vazgen I, underlined the great importance of United States assistance and his gratitude and that of the Armenian people in my initial call on him at the Holy See in Etchmiadzin shortly after my arrival. When during my second year in Yerevan his Holiness became terminally ill, my friend, the Chancellor of the Holy See, Archbishop Bozabalian, arranged for me to pay a short visit. Despite his extreme frailty, His Holiness insisted on receiving me sitting in a chair. When I asked him about his health, he replied only: "Shat hognats em" ( I am very tired"). He then directed our conversation to United States assistance, again expressing his appreciation and stressing its vital importance. Short weeks later I was at the Cathedral in Holy Etchmiadzin attending the Requiem for His Holiness and his interment in the courtyard among the graves of his predecessors over nearly seventeen centuries.

Reconstruction of the Embassy

One of the most trying aspects of my work in Yerevan was the reconstruction of our embassy chancery. With the assistance of the Armenian Government we were able to purchase on quite reasonable terms a very well located building across the street from the Parliament and just down the street from the President's office. Before independence, the building had been the headquarters of the Communist Youth Union of Armenia. As in the case of a number of our sister embassies in the independent states which emerged from the Former Soviet Union, the Department of State decided to undertake a needed major renovation of our building. This included strengthening the bearing walls with a special mesh to enhance the building's ability to withstand seismic shocks in earthquake-prone Armenia; installing a new heating system; and replumbing and rewiring the entire building and annexes. The reconstruction also involved major reconfiguration of the main building and annexes to meet such special requirements as security of visa and other consular operations, security of communications, offices for the United States Agency for International Development and space for public affairs activities.

The major problem was that the Embassy staff had to continue to work in the chancery during the reconstruction process. Even under normal conditions it is difficult to work in a building under construction - moving offices with equipment and files every couple of months; wiping layers of dust from your desk every morning; trying to conduct meetings or engage in conversation with the din of construction noise in the background or the smell of fresh paint in your nostrils. In the grim conditions we all faced in Yerevan the task was much harder. City electric power was at best a sometime thing, requiring us to rely on the Embassy's noisy but faithful generator much of the time. Because the city's water pumps were powered by electricity, the embassy often was without water. For days at a stretch we flushed the toilets with water stored in heavy metal jerry cans. I still recall the distress of my four feet eleven inch secretary at having to flush the toilet with water from a jerry can she could hardly budge. For much of the time imported materials were weeks and months late in arriving, seriously disrupting the planned sequence of construction.

The situation was tough for Embassy staff and construction workers alike. In fact, two of the skilled American workers died in the winter of 1994-95. This sent a shudder through the construction team and the small official American community. This was because if there had been electricity to power the defibrilator at the local hospital where one of the workers died, there was some possibility he might have been saved. If you visit the Embassy you may notice a brass plaque in the foyer which dedicates the reconstructed building to these two workers.

From Cold War to Friendship and Cooperation

On September 2, 1958 an unarmed US C-130 reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by four Soviet MIGs near the village of Sanashen in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia. Carrying a crew of approximately 18, the C-130 took off from the airbase at Incirlik, Turkey, intending to fly a route over Trabzon and Lake Van, skirting the border with the USSR. The C-130 strayed over the border into the USSR's Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, probably because on that day the Soviet navigation system overrode the United States system. All the members of the crew were killed, among them Airman Bourg.

During my first summer in Yerevan, the sister of Airman Bourg came to Armenia with a delegation headed by Ambassador Malcolm Toon and included forensic experts to examine the crash site. My wife and I and the embassy's Public Affairs Officer joined the group for the trip to Sanashen. There we dedicated a khachk ar, a cross stone carved from the reddish volcanic rock used by Armenian artists to carve khachk ars over many centuries, in memory of the crew. In the course of the examination of the site Airman Bourg's sister, Lorna, and our experts found the dog tag of her brother downed 35 years earlier.

The delegation's visit and the erection of the khachk ar on this site which had previously symbolized the Cold War underlined the Armenian Republic's friendship with the United States. This site now symbolizes the new era of United States-Armenian cooperation. The United States Cryptologic Museum has an exhibit commemorating these events.

Armenian Martyrs' Day

For Armenians around the world April 24 marks a singular and solemn day, Armenian Martyrs Day or Genocide Day as it is more commonly known to Armenians. During the night of April 24-5, 1915 some 200-plus Armenian religious, intellectual and political leaders were arrested, and, according to the United States ambassador in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Henry Morgenthau, sent into the interior. They were the flower of the Armenian community in the Ottoman capital. These arrests marked the beginning of a horrendous process of deportation and genocidal massacres of the two million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps as many one and one half million perished.

On Martyrs Day in the Armenian Republic the entire government, led by the President and the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet and leaders of the parliament and joined by the Catholicos and other church officials, gathers at the Genocide Memorial on the outskirts of Yerevan. In a solemn procession led by the President, the assembled place wreaths at the memorial and file past an eternal flame commemorating those who perished. The chiefs of diplomatic missions are invited to join this commemoration.

I presented my credentials to President Ter Petrossian in late May 1993, so my first invitation to participate with the other chiefs of diplomatic missions came in 1994. I had learned that on previous Martyrs Day commemorations since Armenia's independence the United States Embassy was represented, but not at the chief of mission level. I was determined to represent the United States personally. Working closely with the Armenian Desk Officer at the Department of State, I determined the Department would not object to my attendance. As my staff at the embassy and I planned for our participation, we discussed another important consideration. The United States Government has not recognized the deportation and massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1922 as genocide. On Armenian Martyrs Day in recent years United States presidents have issued thoughtful statements deploring the tragedy of the deportations and massacres, underlining United States support for the Armenian Republic and saluting the Armenian-American community

What would I say if one of the many Armenian and international journalists covering the ceremony asked what my participation meant in terms of US Government recogniton of the Armenian Genocide? After careful thought and consultation with my colleagues, I decided I would respond to such a question by saying only that my presence spoke for itself. Sure enough, shortly after the embassy group and I, my wife, my deputy, our Public Affairs Officer and his wife, who is of Armenian heritage, and our Military Representative resplendent in his United States Marines uniform had placed our wreath and filed past the eternal flame, a journalist approached me. I understood that she represented the Armenian media in Lebanon and asked me to comment on my presence and the United States position. I responded as planned. I never heard whether my response was reported. More importantly, a precedent was set and now the United States is represented at the chief of mission level on Martyrs Day as a matter of course.

The Nagorno Karabakh Conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict pervaded virtually every aspect of my work in Armenia. The fighting raged for the first year of my tenure as Armenian forces moved into the occupied territories" of Azerbaijan. May 1994 brought a cease-fire brokered by Russia and supported by the United States and the other members of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe. The cease-fire has held despite occasional shelling and tense moments of confrontation. United States efforts to promote a peace process have been led by an series of able Special Negotiators - Ambassadors Maresca, Presel, Pascoe, and currently Ambassador-Designate Cavanaugh - and not by our embassies in Baku and Yerevan. Still, Nagorno-Karabakh was a major topic of the embassy's reporting to Washington and our conversations with the Armenian Government. Early on, I came to the conclusion that for the great majority of Armenians in the Armenian Republic and, so far as I could tell, in the diaspora as well, the cause of self-determination and security of the Karabakh Armenians on their native soil was a sacred one. The unwritten credo of many Armenians might have read: the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh shall not be subjugated or driven from their native soil as Armenians often have been in the past, and it is the duty of Armenians everywhere to support their right to self-determination on that native soil. Although the Armenians of the Republic were well aware that the privations they endured stemmed in significant part from the Karabakh conflict, I do not ever recall an Armenian interlocutor telling me the cause was not worth the hardships.

I have also become convinced that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan can develop as secure, stable and prospering independent states unless they find an historic compromise on Karabakh and the other issues that face them. I am also convinced that the Karabakh Armenians will have to be part of the process. Although the OSCE Co-Chairmen - the United States, Russia and France - have an indispensable role to play, it is Azerbaijan, Armenia and Karabakh which must find the elements of this historic compromise. To give the parties confidence to reach such a compromise and to enhance the prospects for its successful implementation, the governments of the three Co-Chairmen will have to make a sustained commitment at the highest levels.

Since 1992 the United States Government has been firmly committed to fostering a Karabahk peace process. What, in my judgment, has been missing is the assignment of a senior official dedicated fully to the process on a long-term basis in the way Dennis Ross has been dedicated to the Middle East peace process. This would give our commitment a focus and continuity it has not always had. It would underline to Armenia and Azerbaijan and our fellow Co-Chairmen, Russia and France, the seriousness of our commitment and our determination to stay the course until an agreement is secured. The senior official would also be responsible for marshaling and coordinating the United States assistance effort in support of an agreement.

Elections and Democracy

Helping Armenia develop democratic values and institutions was one of the main goals of my mission. Assisting Armenia in the preparation and conduct of free elections was central to the achievement of this goal. The Armenian parliamentary elections of July 1995, which were accompanied by a referendum on the new constitution, offered us the first opportunity for such assistance. Working closely with two impressive American non-governmental organizations, the International Foundation for Election Systems and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Embassy, including its Agency for International Development and United States Information Agency components, threw itself enthusiastically into the task. We also cooperated closely with the United Nations and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe officials who monitored the elections. These and other international monitors judged the elections to be essentially free but flawed. Although disappointed that the election process had fallen short of international standards, I was pleased to see IFES and NDI begin what has become an ongoing effort to work with Armenia in conducting democratic elections.


Although physically and psychologically my twenty-six months in Armenia were very challenging, the rewards greatly outweighed the hardships. I made a broad spectrum of friends ranging from the President and other top Armenian Government officials through senior officials in the Armenian Apostolic Church; a painter from Karabakh whom I met at the outdoor art market; our cook who had worked as an engineer before 1991; my colorful and faithful driver; and several dozens of devoted and highly competent colleagues, American and Armenian alike, of our embassy staff, non-governmental organizations assisting Armenia, the Peace Corps and the staff of the remarkable American University of Armenia. I marveled at the vibrancy of Armenian cultural life, hardships notwithstanding. Painters were still creating exciting new works, despite the cold and darkness of their studios. The philharmonic gave regular Sunday afternoon concerts in what was often the only heated public building in Yerevan.

Above all, I was taken with the pluck and the fortitude the people of the re-born republic demonstrated in the face of such hardship and privation and their strong sense of national identity and purpose
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