Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan’s visit to London
The way Foggy Albion received us did not correspond to its name at all. The atmosphere indoors and outdoors was bright in all senses of the word. The London smog had disappeared and the views were fairly clear. Both the Thames and Windsor Castle were in their places. Trafalgar Square and Big Ben were probably full of tourists. Nothing seemed to have changed in Europe’s most traditionalist country since historical times. At the same time London is one of the most modern centres in the world. Though everything in the city seems ritual it does not bother you at all. Perhaps the reason is London’s being a multi-faceted megapolis with people of all races, Brits and non-Brits who form part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. London’s eye-catching attributes – double-deckers and telephone booths, taxis and carriages standing side by side create unique mood typical of this city only. All this can’t but draw a broad smile on each visitor’s face. The same happened to us. But we also had other goals.
Mission in London
-This is a visit of historic significance, historic with the president’s unprecedented speech at the Parliament, his speech and meetings at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. This is only the first step. There will be others, other victories of Artsakh and Armenians.
For the first time in the history of our newly independent country the state delegation arrived on an official visit to the UK. The visit can truly be considered historic. Due to the country’s well-known position Artsakh Republic had not established ties with UK, an important geopolitical figure. Whereas there are both opportunities and preconditions for it. The proof is the president’s four-day visit all the episodes of which we could capture.
Here is our report on all the meetings included in the agenda.
It is the church that unites a community within the Diaspora. Its role in preservation of Armenianhood becomes even bigger if the community is small and has few other centres to unite around. It is well-known that the Armenian community in Britain is not as big as those of France, Russia or the USA. There are approximately 20 000 Armenians in the UK. The community was formed in the 1830s. The first Armenians were mainly merchants from Constantinople and India who settled in London, Manchester and Liverpool. The community enlarged after World War I when numerous Armenians immigrated from Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus. According to Wikipedia the Armenian House of London shapes the cultural environment. There is one Evangelical and three Armenian Apostolic churches in Britain. St Sarkis in London is the seat of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Great Britain. However, as the priest of St Sarkis Father Baghdasaryan informed us, as years went by the community grew and the church was already small for all. It became necessary to have another Armenian church in London. In 1970s local authorities granted the Armenian community with the Anglican church St. Peter’s to perform services for the following 25 years. Afterwards it had to be returned. Fortunately, Vache Manukyan, a well-to-do Armenian living in Britain, bought the church and gifted it to the community. St. Peter’s church was consecrated in 2001 and renamed St. Eghishe in memory of the benefactor’s father.
- We preserved the main ornaments, stained glass and inscriptions in the church. We changed only the altar. At the back it’s still the old Anglican altar, whereas on the front you can see a true Armenian altar with four columns and the table. It’s a real Armenian altar. The front was a bit low and we raised it to use for 2 different things…
St. Eghishe was built in 1867. Some non-Armenian architectural features of the complex were changed with the help of Vache and Tamar Manukyan Foundation. The altar was transformed into an Armenian one, a cross stone was put in the yard. Now the administrative part of the complex also has Armenian symbols in it. London’s biggest organ is said to be in this church. The church hosts certain cultural events organized by the community.
- Every Sunday there are services in the church. Throughout the year different organizations hold their cultural events here. We have classical music concerts, rarely performances. We mostly have piano recitals, different concerts. Armenian organizations, Saturday and Sunday schools hold events here.
Artsakh Republic President is also informed about all the stories concerning the church where, by the way, he had his first meeting with the members of the community. Primate of the British Diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church Hovhannes Manukyan was installed just a few days before. While accompanying the delegation to the church he spoke about the activities of the Diocese. In honour of Bako Sahakyan’s visit a solemn reception was held at St Eghishe. The national anthems of Armenia and Artsakh herald the beginning of the ceremony. The presenter’s warmest words for the delegation were followed by the welcoming speech of a representative of community council. Diaspora’s most sincere words were also for Artsakh.
“Artsakh is the treasure of our souls. The biggest gem we have inherited. We should protect and cherish it. Struggle and human losses are what make independence and Motherland. Our battles started with Sardarapat and ended with Karabakh. They have temporarily stopped in Shoushi because we must continue our struggle to give our Motherland all her rights. All political institutions of Diaspora need to make every effort and use every media source to make the reality of Artsakh known to the world. Our reality in Karabakh.”
The abundance of such ideas was accompanied by melodies of Komitas performed by the pianist Roland Roberts and singer Teresa Gevorgyan.
Mr. Armen Sarkissian, Armenia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland inaugurated the second official part of the event. According to Dr. Sarkissian, his emotive speech was caused by the excitedness of the moment.
25 years ago in this very church, which was not as beautiful at that time, we held the opening ceremony of the first embassy of RA in a foreign state. In this very church we consecrated the Embassy’s flag. A lot of memorable things happened in my life during that year. Things I can’t remember without emotions. The flag of Armenia was raised above the UN building. We got very excited about these events. Years have passed and it seems there is nothing left to make me emotional. I have seen a lot in life, diplomacy and politics. But I’d like to confess that when hours ago I was meeting the president at the airport my heart starting beating fast. It seemed I had gone 25 years back. Dear friends, this hall has hosted a number events, it has hosted the presidents of the Republic of Armenia. I am happy and proud to announce that today we have the president of Artsakh Republic, the second Armenian state, here in this hall. And I am very proud and excited about it.
In his speech the Ambassador spoke about the uniqueness of the two Armenian states and the keys to their success.
- When thinking and speaking about Artsakh we think about the success and victories of the country. We speak about Artsakh with pride because the victories of the people of Artsakh both on fields of battle, on the border or their exemplary work serve an example for all of us. Even in Armenia, especially in Armenia we should look up to them. They inspire us hope. If Armenians in Artsakh can be so organized, patriotic, dedicated, confident, brave and work so hard, I think we in Armenia and Diaspora can do that too. Altogether this proves that the 21st century will be ours.
Attaching great importance to the significance of the president’s visit Armen Sarkissian emphasized the need for further actions since there were quite acceptable conditions in the UK. ”The first visit gave start to future victories in England”. After these words the Ambassador invited the Head of the State to deliver a speech.
”We are a special nation. We have two countries – one is small, the other is even smaller. But we are a universal nation. We are tied both economically, emotionally and patriotically. This is a huge power. 21st century is the time of international organizations, cooperating nations. It’s up to us. We simply need to be organized, enthusiastic, hardworking and multiply the success we have reached in Artsakh.
In his speech Bako Sahakyan touched upon issues related to Artsakh, state-building, settlement of NKR conflict, other regional problems. He noted that the biggest achievement of the country was the fact of having a democratic state. Something we could do with the help of Armenia and Diaspora. The president added that the leading British paper “Guardian” included Artsakh in the list of the best travel destinations in the world.
“The members of our delegation and I are happy to meet you and present the achievements and tasks of Artsakh, listen to your opinions and give off positive vibes. To my mind, such meetings are extermely important for us all. The Armenian community of Great Britain occupies a special place in Diaspora. Though comparatively small, it plays an active role in UK, Diaspora and Armenia. Representatives of the community have always participated in Telethons organized by “Hayastan” All Armenian Fund and had their input in the development of Artsakh. We are grateful for your patriotism and dedication to your Homeland”.
The president also spoke about the moods and visions of the people of Artsakh. We cannot turn back from the way we chose 27 years ago. Only forward and no step back. This is our motto. It is only from textbooks that the new generation living in Artsakh can learn about the past. It is impermissible to build obstacles for them.
“We were able to defend our independence and peace, our honour and dignity in the war imposed on us by Azerbaijan. We could celebrate victories because we were all united, because our fight was just and our goals were kind. Today we keep thriving to develop our ancestors’ land whose level of well-being is constantly growing. We definitely have a number of unsolved problems and serious tasks. We have never tried to conceal the fact. A significant part of them has to do with Artsakh being an unrecognized state as a result of which we cannot benefit from international projects and develop broad cooperation with different countries. There are some issues related to our internal organization and good management. But we are persistent and resolute in our aim to solve all problems and remove the existing flaws.
The Armed Forces of Artsakh are the guarantee of our success, freedom and the country’s safety. The Army of Defence is capable of fulfilling any task. As you know, Azerbaijan keeps violating the ceasefire regime, taking insiduous steps and holding to its destructive policy. However, all these acts of harrassment have been and are effectively prevented by the Army. Each citizen of Artsakh is ready to defend his Motherland for he realizes the significance of our success and victories for all Armenians. Being conscious of all this we shall continue doing our best for our country’s development and progress. Our vision of future has remained unchanged. Artsakh will always be Armenian, free, independent and no possible situation will ever put it in doubt. This is the truth and we avail ourselves of every meeting to declare once again that nothing in the world can make us strayfrom our path. There is no return to the past for us and we are not going to face tragedies any more.”
At the end Bako Sahakyan expressed his gratitude to the Armenian community of UK for warm reception wishing all peace and success. The attendees received the president’s speech with long ovation.
“I would be very happy to welcome you all on Artsakh soil – in your Motherland. Thank you.”
The solemn event ended with the speech of the primate of the diocese of the Armenian church in the UK Hovakim Manukyan, who basically delivered his first public speech in honour of the delegation’s visit. The Lord’s Prayer was recited for the sake of peace in the two Armenian states.
“Artsakh is the pride of every Armenian. Artsakh is the country that united Armenians around the realization of national dreams in order to fight for the freedom and independence of an important part of our people. Artsakh is the country that changed the course of our history and helped us straighten up after the Genocide. The Armenian flag was consecrated by UK and other countries. Let the same happen to the flag of Artsakh. Mr. President, I welcome you again on behalf of the Armenian Church. I pray God to give you good health to be able to carry out all your undertakings. I pray God to give peace to NKR, the borders of our country so that the Armenian peoplelives for good. For now and always.”
Having instilled seeds of awakening in our compatriots from Diaspora the delegation bid goodbye to the attendees. But it was not the last meeting with them in their 4-day visit. They were present at other events to listen to Artsakh Republic president and communicate with the members of the delegation.
England is known for cold relations. Yet, it does not concern Armenians. The longing and the call of blood keep them warm not letting their compatriots dishearten.
“Best regards to all..”
“Thank you! Visit us soon…” “Good bye. All the best to you.”
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a unitary state. It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance and consists of 4 countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It has the world’s seventh-largest economy by GDP. The country plays a major role in international relations and has the 4th largest defence budget.
Proceeding with our program we will try to discover the ways to establish relations with this powerful country.