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ARF History

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Hai Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutiun) was founded in 1890, in Tbilisi, Georgia, by Kristapor Mikaelian, Stepan (Rostom) Zoryan and Simon Zavarian.

Initially known as Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries, the ARF brought together all the progressive, revolutionary elements of the Armenian people, who believed in the cause of liberating the Armenians from the oppressive rule of the Ottomans. To reach this goal, the Dashnaktsutiun initiated a struggle against the Ottoman tyranny. Later on, particularly after 1905, when Russia’s czarist regime instigated inter-ethnic confrontations in the Caucasus between the Armenians and the Tatars, the Federation did not hesitate to assume the leadership of the self-defense movement in Eastern Armenia, as well.

Not only did the Dashnaktsutiun strive to propagate the ideas of freedom and the struggle for liberation in vast segments of the Armenian populations, it also initiated many activist steps which, born of the ideals of its Credo and strategic goals, strengthened and crystallized its ideology, entrenching its popularity and image amongst Armenian and international circles.

During the dark years of the Armenian Genocide, many localities put up heroic, yet desperate armed uprisings of self-defense. Outside of Van and Musa Dagh — where last minute outside assistance saved the local Armenian communities from annihilation — as a rule, the local ARF entities resisted, fighting to the last man.

Similarly, during the years of World War I, the ARF committed its best elements — such as Keri, Andranik, Hamazasp, Aram, Nicol Aghbalian and many others — to the organization and leadership of Armenian Volunteer units. Later on, these units formed the core of the Armenian Republic’s armed forces. It was during this period that — thanks to the role played by the ARF — the heroic battles of Sardarabad, Bash Abaran and Gharakilisa (Vanadzor) ended in victory, resulting in the declaration of the First Independent Republic of Armenia on May 28, 1918. The original of that historic declaration is in the ARF Archives.

During the years1918-20, in the independent Republic of Armenia, the Dashnaktsutiun assumed leading roles in all areas of governance and state building. Alongside the four Premiers of this era of independence, who were ARF activists, ARF field workers played a key role in other ministries as well. It was during that same time, that Avetis Aharonian, on August 10, 1920, signed the Sèvres Treaty as the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Republic of Armenia. With that treaty, Armenia secured De Jure international recognition, and US President, Woodrow Wilson accepted the task of drawing the boundaries between Turkey and Armenia. A copy of the map setting those boundaries — issued by the US State Department — can also be found in the ARF Archives.

In 1919, the 9th World Congress of the ARF, convened in Yerevan, declared Armenia ‘United and Independent’, a formulation, that to this day, remains the goal and fundamental political purpose of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s platform.

After the sovietization of Armenia, the ARF embarked upon the tasks of the organization of the Diaspora through the establishment of a free press, a network of educational institutions, cultural and athletic societies, political structures, etc. While, wherever the necessity arose, it assumed the responsibility of the physical security of endangered Armenian communities, as was the case during the civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). After the 50th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, the Dashnaktsutiun embarked on a wide range of political activities in many countries, as well as in the United Nations Organization.

In 1988, when the Nagorno Karabagh movement started, the ARF mustered its forces and gave full support to the liberation of Artsakh. In short order, the Federation became active in the Homeland and, on August 8, 1990, asserted its presence in Soviet Armenia, during a session of the Supreme Soviet (Parliament) of the country.

Considering the liberation of Artsakh as an immediate priority, the ARF not only fought for the security of the Armenian population of the enclave, but also was instrumental in the establishment of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh.

The Artsakh liberation movement had yet to come to its just conclusion, when the Soviet Union collapsed and, along with other republics, Armenia also declared its independence on Sept. 21, 1991. The ARF hailed this decision and joined the national efforts of state building, extending a hand of sincere cooperation to the authorities. Unfortunately, in 1992, the leadership of the recently independent Armenia, not only misjudged the potential and commitment of the Dashnaktsutiun to the national cause, but went so far as ordering the expulsion of the Chairman of the ARF Bureau, Hrair Marukhian from Armenia, obstructing the proceeding of the ARF 25th World Congress, which would have been the first to be held in Yerevan, Armenia, since 1919.

The unabated wrath of the HoHoSha regime in Armenia proceeded its persecution of the Dashnaktsutiun by shutting down all ARF publications, news media and printing plants in December of 1994, by arresting and incarcerating prominent ARF leaders on trumped up charges, and ordering the cessation of all ARF activity in Armenia.

After the change of regime in February1998, the ARF resumed its constructive work in the Republic, with members in the National Assembly and ministers in charge of Social Security, Public Health, Agrarian Development, etc.

From the date of its establishment to the year 2008, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation has convened 30 World Congresses — the last one in May 2008, in Tzaghkadzor, Armenia. These gatherings have formulated the organization’s political strategy, constitutional and structural amendments, affirming its ideological stance and course of action based on clearly articulated national goals.

As a Socialist organization, the ARF strives for a just world order based on equality of national rights, leading to the realization of a United, Free and Independent Armenia, within its historic borders as delineated by President Woodrow Wilson. It also promotes in the Homeland a social order where the sovereignty of the people prevails based on the principles of a social-democratic state — principles clearly stated in the ARF Program.

In conclusion, the Archives of the A.R. Federation, covering activities of nearly twelve decades, are kept in Boston, Massachusetts, as a testament to the long history of commitment and patriotism of this organization. These archives include World Congress and regional entities’ minutes, letters, circulars, financial reports, photographs, maps and audio-visual material — including countless documents of the First Republic of Armenia (1918-1920).

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