Towering bulls made of stone, with a bell tower reaching high into the sky.
It’s a sight to behold in Armenia’s Amavir province. A monument to mark an important victory that set the stage for future independence. “This is the 99th commemoration of the Battle of Sardarapat. It was Armenia’s last ditch effort to fight back against the Ottoman Turks and this battle was seen as the final effort to prevent the destruction of the Armenian people,” says Raffi Hovannisian, a Yerevan resident and Fresno native. “Every year Sardarapat is a pilgrimage for the Armenian nation worldwide. From Armenia, from Artsakh, and from the diaspora, as well from Fresno to New York, from Beirut to Tehran, all around the world because it is a memorial to our survival,” he says.
We walked the steps of this massive stone monument with Raffi and Armine Hovannisian. Raffi was born in Fresno, but has called Armenia home for 26 years. He explained the significance of the battle and the yearly commemoration. “It set the foundations for future Armenia. The future Armenia that was initially a soviet state for 70 years and the current republic of Armenia which was declared independent in September Of 1991,” Hovanissian says.
Armenians from Yerevan and surrounding villages converged here to pay their respects to those who fought and died. Manik Kajajyan lost her husband in the independence movement in of 1988. She now tends the flowers at the monument– a beautiful show of love and support. “May the souls rest in peace of those who have passed away. And I congratulate everyone on this occasion,” she says.
Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan and religious leaders addressed the gathering crowd as the Military put on a display of precision and strength.
Celebrating the victory of a battle 99 years ago that lead to a brief two and a half year independence and 70 years of Soviet rule, but opened the door to a future and much longer lasting independence in the years to come.