1,564 years ago, in 451 AD, the Armenians, under the leadership of General Vartan Mamigonian, fought for their religious and political freedom from the neighboring Sassanid Persians. Although the Armenians were greatly outnumbered they fought valiantly. By the end of the battle there were 1,036 Armenian casualties and many Persian casualties. This historic event is known as the Battle of Avarayr.
Though the Armenians did not triumph, the surviving soldiers continued their fight against the Persians for the next 30 years, utilizing guerilla-style tactics. The Persians eventually tired of the effort to forcibly convert the Armenians, and finally recognized the religious independence of the Armenians in the 484 Treaty of Nvarsak. The 451 AD battle is commemorated today as Vartanantz, which is celebrated every year in February by Armenians around the world.
The Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Yeprad Lodge, organized this annual event together with local Armenian churches and organizations. This year’s commemoration took place on February 12 at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, beginning with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 6:00PM. A program followed the service with an introduction and opening remarks by the Master of Ceremonies, Ara Karkazian, Commander of the Knights of Vartan.
Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School students participated in the celebration by performing songs and poems about Vartanantz, such as “Yev Zoragank Vartan,” and “Vartanantz Asbedner.” Following the performance, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Lisa Gamoian spoke about being Armenian and shared her personal experiences. She addressed how distinct and different Armenians are in this melting pot they call home.
Gamoian believes that three values, “the Armenian deep-seated devotion to God, devotion to country, and devotion to the family,” are values that have been passed on from generation to generation. She spoke about growing up in an Armenian household, with traditions that were different than her American schoolmates, something that many Armenian-Americans can relate to. Just as the soldiers fought to keep the Armenian beliefs alive, the Armenian family and community work to keep those same beliefs alive while living in a land far from Armenia.
The Knights and Daughters of Vartan provided a variety of food and refreshments after the event.