MONTE MELKONIAN: A TALENTED SCHOLAR and DEFENDER OF KARABAKH’S SELF-DETERMINATION

In assessing the grand victories of May, in particular, the victory won at the World War II and the liberation of Shushi, it is important not only to perceive the value of feat of arms of the Homeland’s defender, but also to represent him as a gifted person, a patriot and an intellectual. In the history of the Armenian people instances are not rare when a scholar or a man of art, at a fatal hour for his people, rose in arms to defend his Homeland, the spiritual values ​​and glorious traditions of the nation. Such examples were numerous, especially in the 20th century, and in particular – in the Artsakh liberation war. In this aspect, characteristic is the image of Monte Melkonian, the National Hero of the Republic of Armenia (RA). It is no mere chance, that Hayk Kotanjian – Advisor of the RA Minister of Defense, Head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies, MOD, RA, Doctor of Political Science, visiting Levon Shant Secondary School N 4 in Yerevan – where within the anniversary of the liberation of Shushi an event devoted to the memory of Monte Melkonian was organized by schoolchildren of 5-6 classes – presented them with a bibliographically unique edition of Monte Melkonian’s Master’s Thesis titled “Urartian Rock-Cut Tombs. Description and Analysis”. The General’s gift embraced a special meaning, as it was intended to introduce Monte Melkonian to the public anew.

In 1995, when after the armistice the Republic of Armenia within its limited capacities started to build the Armed Forces and consolidate the Army, when, due to cyclic power cutoffs, poor transport, and food shortage the activities of the majority of enterprises and institutions, primarily academic and educational establishments, were put on hold, Monte Melkonian’s widow Seda and Dr. Aram Kalantaryan, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences (NAS), RA, turned to Dr. Hayk Kotanjian with a request to publish the Master’s thesis of the national hero having bravely fallen on the battlefield. Under the high patronage of the then Minister of Defense, National Hero of Armenia Vazgen Sargsyan and with the assistance of his Deputies Vahan Shirkhanyan and Hmayak Aroyan, it was decided to immediately publish this valuable research, which Monte Melkonian had defended for Master’s Degree in “Archaeology and History of Asia” at the prestigious University of Berkeley, US, in 1978. Before that, Monte had graduated the four-year Bachelor’s program in 2.5 years. He mastered seven languages.

Introducing his research work to the public was of great importance as it represented Monte Melkonian, the former fighter of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), who rose to defend Nagorno-Karabakh – self-determined in compliance with the legislation then in force – in a new way, as a talented researcher from the US and a young Armenian, who, abandoning a brilliant career of a scholar abroad (he had been enrolled in Postgraduate studies at the Oxford University, but quit it), came to selflessly and entirely devote himself to the noble cause of defending the Armenians of Artsakh. Moreover, the publication of the freedom-fighter’s research through depicting his true image neutralized the enemy’s deliberate attempts to denigrate Monte Melkonian.
So as to organize a decent publication of the freedom-fighter’s research paper an editorial team was created under Dr. Hayk Kotanjian’s supervision, which was to work on the translation text minutely and with interest, and issued it meeting the academic criteria and requirements. The editorial team comprised of the academic partners from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, NAS, RA – PhDs in History Rusan Mkrtchyan, Simon Hmayakyan, Ashot Piliposyan, Pavel Avetisyan; highly skilled specialists of the defense-academic journal MOD, RA “Haykakan Banak” (“Armenian Defense”) – Doctor of History, Professor Boris Balayan, PhD in Philosophy, Associate Professor Vladimir Baghdasaryan, Executive Editor Davit Chilingaryan, Art and Technical Editor Razmik Gevorgyan, Graphic Designer Sergey Narazyan, as well as a group of professional officers on computer software support from the Computing Center of the MOD, RA, under the guidance of Chief Specialist Samvel Atoyan.
The selfless efforts by the team did yield the desired result: the product of Monte Melkonian’s scientific thinking turned into an academic publication, which was the continuation of the series of the “Archaeological Monuments of Armenia” by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, NAS, RA, interrupted due to lack of required resources. It was the defense-academic journal “Haykakan Banak”, MOD, RA, to be the publisher. At the request of Monte’s widow the publication was sent to the Universities of Sorbonne, Berkeley and to other academic educational centers of the world.
It should be highlighted that Monte Melkonian was, as a matter of fact, born for science. Arriving in Armenia he showed a great interest in the academic centers of Armenia, including the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. He used to attend that Institute throughout a month, communicate with the members of the Institute, and take part in academic discussions. He was very happy to find out that there was a Department of Arabic Studies at the Institute. At that time I was not only the Deputy Director of the Institute, but also the Head of the above-mentioned Department. We often used to have talks on the important role the Arabs had played in saving the Armenians deported in the course of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. He underlined that if it weren’t for the Arabs and their support, the contemporary Armenian Diaspora would never survive. He even wanted to draft a perspective plan on developing the Arabic studies. But he didn’t manage to. The Karabakh war broke out, and Monte changed his pen with the sword.
Later on, one of his friends, Dean of the Department of Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University Dr. Gurgen Melikyan, one day phoned me. There was such a deep grief in his voice that we were all stunned. He said: “Monte is gone…” For his merits to the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh Monte Melkonian was awarded the highest title of the “Hero of Artsakh” and the order of “Golden Eagle”. In 1996 he was posthumously awarded the highest honorary title of the “National Hero of the Republic of Armenia”.
But the memory of him is alive. So now, Monte Melkonian, the National Hero of the Republic of Armenia, the Hero of Artsakh appears before the grateful descendents not only in the image of a true knight of his Homeland, but also as a talented scholar, who sacrificed his career and life for the sake of the freedom of his Homeland and for the independence and development of its people.

Nikolay Hovhannisyan
Doctor of History, Professor
Corresponding Member of the NAS, Armenia
Honored Scientist

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