YEREVAN — Armenia on Monday celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the first independent Armenian republic that emerged after more than 600 years under foreign rule.
Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and many foreign dignitaries attended a festive ceremony and a small military parade held at the Sardarapat Memorial to mark the occasion.
“A hundred years ago Armenia won this battle because for the first time we relied on ourselves rather than expecting help from others,” Pashinian said.
The decisive battle was fought from May 22-29, 1918 around Sardarapat, a village about 50 kilometers west of Yerevan. Turkish forces were defeated there and pushed back from the capital of what was the first sovereign Armenian state in more than four centuries.
A war memorial built near Sardarapat in the late 1960s was therefore the scene of the main official ceremonies to mark the independence centenary. Hundreds of soldiers, some of them clad in First World War-era uniforms, as well as gray-haired veterans of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan marched there in a military parade.
The parade also featured tributes to hundreds of thousands of Armenians who fought, mostly as Soviet Red Army soldiers, against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Troops from the Russian military base in Armenia also participated in it.
“For the first time in their history, the Armenian people were citizens, rather than subjects, masters, rather than servants, and that was a fateful turnaround,” Pashinian said in his speech.
Pashinian noted that the military victory at Sardarapat was achieved only three years after the beginning of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey which put the Armenian nation “on the verge of extinction.”
“From the standpoint of pragmatism and rational calculation, the Armenian people stood no chance to win,” he said. “But we won because we realized that our essence is not to be herded to deserts and massacred … The Armenian people won because for the first time in 400 years they pinned their hopes on themselves, rather than others.”
“Only thanks to the existence of the First Republic was Armenia incorporated into the Soviet Union as a full-fledged union republic,” said Pashinian. “And only thanks to this status did Armenia manage to secede from the Soviet Union without upheavals and to gain the status of an internationally recognized independent country.”