St Gregory of Narek Church in Richmond Heights Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) hosts an annual Armenian Festival with food, music, dancing and more including church tours.
It's a beautiful church and in the video belwo we take a quick look outside and in. Then Rev. Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, pastor of the Church, tells us who St. Gregory of Narek was. He also explains how an alphabet was invented centuries ago to translate the Bible into Armenian. He also makes a plea for Armenia in the current troubled world situation.
Berj Shakarian inducted into Cleveland International Hall of Fame
Since 2010, the Cleveland International Hall of Fame (CIHF) has inducted people who have made significant and lasting contributions to our multicultural society. Cleveland is home to people representing about 120 different ethnic groups. The CIHF exists not only to honor those special people but also to inspire a new generation of leaders to follow in their footsteps.
Over 150 worthy candidates were nominated for both the 2020 and 2022 Classes of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. The selection committee was advised by previously inducted members of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021. We tried to induct the 2020 class virtually but it was not the same. So once we were able to gather together again, we included the 2020 class in the induction ceremony for the 2022 class on June 7, 2022. The event at Windows on the River was a sell out and the 2020 class finally got their moment in the spotlight.
On the evening of June 7, 2022 Berj Shakarian was finally honored in person and was inducted by Paul Burik.
Berj is the first person oh Armenian heritage to be inducted.
Berj Shakarian inducted virtually into Cleveland International Hall of Fame
Architect Berj Shakarian was inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. He is the first person of Armenian heritage to be inducted.
Berj was the driving force behind the Armenian Cultural Garden in Cleveland as well as the Centennial Peace Plaza among other projects.
In this induction video, Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation president Dr. Wael Khoury introduced Berj and then previous inductee Paul Burik presented Berj and gave him his CIHF award and pin. Berj then gave his acceptance speech.
We asked community leaders of various ethnic heritages to share some holiday traditions of their culture. Anita Kazarian says "Armenians get to celebrate Christmas twice!" She shared an article inspired from the late Archbishop Besak Toumaian called 'Why Armenians observe Christmas on January 6.'
Armenian illustrated manusript page of the Adoration of the Magi
Hamazkayin Armenian Dance Ensemble at Armenian Festival
The Hamazkayin Armenian Dance Ensemble from Detroit is a 15 year old dance group from Detroit with 140 dancers. They performed at the annual Cleveland Armenian Festival at St. Gregory of Narek Church in Cleveland.
The annual Cleveland Armenian Festival at St. Gregory of Narek Church in Cleveland was held September 20-22, 2019. Church tours were given but we took our own walk through the beautiful grounds and Church.
The Cleveland Armenian community was out in full force at the 74th annual One World Day on the site of the Armenian Cultural Garden. Members of the community marched in the annual Parade of Flags and participated in the commemoration of the Baltic Way which took place 30 years ago.
Cleveland Armenians in One World Day Parade of Flags
Later there was music, dancing, entertainment, food and fun in the Armenian Garden as members of the Armenian community shared their culture with thousands of visitors on One World Day.
The Cleveland Armenian community was out in full force at the 73rd annual One World Day on the site of the Armenian Cultural Garden. Members of the community marched in the annual Parade of Flags and later there was music, dancing, entertainment, food and fun as members of the Armenian community shared their culture with thousands of visitors on One World Day.
Fashions from Armenia at Cleveland multicultural party
A highlight of the 8th Annual ICC-WIN Cleveland Multicultural Holiday Celebration on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at the Global Center for Health Innovation in Cleveland was the International Fashion Show featuring almost 100 models from about 30 countries.
Tigran Baghdasaryan and Ellena Baghdasaryan represented Armenia. The Armenian national clothing, called Taraz in Armenian, represents a rich cultural tradition. Armenia national clothing typically incorporates wool, linen and silk, and includes lots of embroidery. Jewelry is added to complete the ensemble.
By the color and form of Armenian national dress it was possible to understand the person's marital status, how many children he/she had and their social status. National dress was also dependent on climatic conditions and ethnic environment, often becoming the symbol of tribal, gender and class identity.
(click on the white arrow to watch the video)
Tigran Baghdasaryan and Ellena Baghdasaryan representing Armenia
Ellena and Tigran with mother Kristine Baghdasaryan
Armenian Independence Day Celebration - Cleveland City Hall Rotunda
In Armenia, Independence Day is an official holiday. It commemorates the restoration of the Republic of Armenia in September 21, 1991, after 70 years of Soviet rule. In Cleveland, the occasion was celebrated on September 21, 2017 with a ceremony in the Rotunda of Cleveland City Hall and the flying of the flag of Armenia over City Hall.
Leah Jones (Senator Brown's office), Tigran Baghdasaryan, Rouben Sagatelov,
Razmig Pounardjian and Alex Lackey (Mayor Jackson's office)
Cleveland Armenian community at Cleveland Multicultural Event
The Cleveland Armenian Community was represented at the 7th annual International Community Council - Worldwide Intercultural Network (ICC-WIN) holiday party on December 14, 2016.
120 people participated in the fashion show and each walked the runway to music from their country. Click on the white arrow to watch the short video of the Armenian models Elza Ter-Artynov, Tigran Baghdasaryan and Ellena Baghdasaryan.
The Armenian Cultural Garden and Armenian community participated in the 71st One World Day on August 28, 2016. They began with the Parade of Flags.
Armenian Community in One World Day Parade of Flags
Throughout the day members of the Armenian community of Cleveland hosted hundreds of visitors in the Armenian Cultural Garden and shared Armenian food, dance lessons and gave a look at Armenian culture.
Later in the day Nagregatsi Armenian Folk Ensemble performed on the main stage.
A highlight of the 6th annual Holiday Celebration of Cleveland's Diversity held in the atrium of the Global Center for Health Innovation in the Cleveland Convention Center by the International Community Council-Worldwide Intercultural Network (ICC-WIN) was the multicultural fashion show.
Models Tigran Baghdasaryan and Ellena Baghdasaryan
The Armenian national clothing, called Taraz in Armenian, represents a rich cultural tradition. This style of dress demonstrates one that's typical of the Sassoon Region of Western Armenia in the 19th century. Armenian clothing typically incorporated wool, cotton, linen and silk, and included lots of embroidery. Jewelry was added to complete the dresses.
Louise of St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church spoke about the forget-me-not flower at the 14th annual Armenian Food Festival & Bazaar in Cleveland. The forget- me-not is the
Centennial Flower and represents the Armenian Genocide victims. Louise says the million and one half martyrs are now saints so "Now they pray for us instead of us praying for them."
Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Ohio put on a program in the Rotunda of Cleveland City Hall to educate people about the events of 100 years ago. The Rotunda was standing room only as people met to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide and honor the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished.
The committee is focused on raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide to prevent future genocides worldwide.
Kevan Asadorian, Chairman The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Ohio
The Armenian Alphabet stands out in the snow of Winter 2015.
Armenian Cultural Garden at 2013 One World Day/Festival
Besides marching in the Parade of Nations with the Armenian Flag, the Armenian community was represented at the 2013 One World Day/Festival at the Armenian Cultural Garden. Food, drink, culture and history were shared in the beautiful garden.
Berj Shakarian marching in the Parade of Nations
Armenian Cultural Garden One World Day volunteers
Andre Avitisian, Roupen, Kevan Asadorian, JoAnn Asadorian, George Asadorian, Taleen Avitisian, Ara Pounardjian, Dzaghik Pounardjian, Suzelle Aghamalian, Rafi Avitisian
For the first time, Armenian Independence was celebrated with a ceremony in the Rotunda of Cleveland City Hall. Over 200 people attended the event and the Flag of Armenia flew over City Hall for several days.
US and Armenian flags flying over Cleveland City Hall
Anita Kazarian, Suzelle Avitsian, Michael Patterson, George Assadorian, Fr. Hratch, Dr. Sebouh Setrakian, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian and Peter Zahirsky at the 21st anniversary of Armenian Independence event.
The Cleveland Armenian Community and friends gathered at the new Armenian Cultural Garden at 741 MLK Blvd. in Cleveland on Sunday September 19, 2010. Designed by architect Berj A. Shakarian, the site plan is devised in the form of the "vesica piscis", a sacred geometric symbol representing Christ and by extension the conversion of Armenia as the first Christian nation in 301 CE.
Berj Shakarian and Carlos Bozoklian, Architect and Builder of the Armenian Cultural Garden
Armenian Cultural Garden Planning - October 18, 2008
The Cleveland Armenian Community gathered at St. Gregory of Narek Church on Richmond Road on October 18, 2008 to unveil the plans for the Armenian Cultural Garden. Architect and Garden designer, Berj Shakarian wants the garden to be a celebration. "Throughout history, even during the genocide, Armenians have been a positive people. Armenians were the first to adopt Christianity in 301 A.D."
Peter Kvidera with wife Melanie Shakarian and parents Berj and Carol Shakarian
Organizations and Resources for Armenian in Cleveland
The mainstay of the Armenian population is their Church. The only active Armenian Church in Ohio is located in Richmond Heights. It is St. Gregory of Narek and is at 678 Richmond Road, Richmond Heights, OH 44143; Tel: (216) 381-6590)
There is also Holy Cross Armenian Church in North Royalton, but with the exception of a few more social events throughout the year, it is not an active Church.
Within the Church organization there are a number of benevolent organizations. One such organization is the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union), which was originally created in 1906 in Egypt by refugees of the genocide. Its goal was to gather orphans from the area and give them homes. The AGBU is active in education and youth programs.
There are also Church organizations such as the Armenian Relief Society, the Youth Guild and the women's Auxiliary.
The Armenian Assembly is a Political Action Committee based in Washington D.C. dealing with policies in Armenia.
The Sons of Malatia is a group of surviving children of the genocide, and now their children as well. It is both a cultural and benevolent society.
On April 24, 1966, a granite monument was dedicated on the St. Gregory of Narek grounds to commemorate the 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred by the Turks between 1915 and 1918. An annual requiem service takes place before this monument each year on April 24 or the Sunday closest.
The language of Armenia is Armenian, but Russian is used almost as much. There are different regions, which produce different dialects. Cleveland Armenians are mainly from Malatia, but there are also those from Bursa and Aintab.
You can tell a little about a person's Armenian roots by the spelling of his/her last name. Usually an ending of "ian" (such as Mirakian, Atkian, Arselanian) represents roots nearer the Turkish borders, whereas "yan" (such as famed Dudak player Gasparyan) usually hale from the northern, Russian area.
Unlike many of the more modern languages, Armenian is considered a "pure" language, in that it is not really a derivative of any other. It does not have as its base the language of any other country, with the possible exception of Albania, because Armenia itself is such an ancient country.
St. Gregory's has been operating an Armenian language school for 30 years.
The instrument most associated with Armenian music is the "Dudak", which is a flute-like instrument made from the wood of an apricot tree. The "Zurna", which is similar to a clarinet, is also a popular instrument. It has a loud, piercing, nasal sound and is often associated with great gala festivities.
The "guitar" with an oval and teardrop shaped body is known as the "Tar". It has two strings and it leans against the chest as it is played. Armenians also have a type of bagpipe, known as a "Parkapzuk", a drum referred to as "Dohl".
Together these instruments produce a haunting, lyrical sound unlike typical western music. Learning to play these instruments takes much patience and skill, but the result is worth the effort.
Armenia prides itself on being the first nation to formally adopt Christianity (early 4th century). Despite periods of autonomy, over the centuries Armenia came under the sway of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, and Ottoman.
During World War I in the western portion of Armenia, Ottoman Turkey instituted a policy of forced resettlement coupled with other harsh practices that resulted in an estimated 1 million Armenian deaths. The eastern area of Armenia was ceded by the Ottomans to Russia in 1828; this portion declared its independence in 1918, but was conquered by the Soviet Red Army in 1920.
Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by the long conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also a significant portion of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution. Turkey imposed an economic blockade on Armenia and closed the common border because of the Armenian separatists' control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.