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Tigran Jrbashyan (pic. 1-3) was born on Novermber 9, 1889 in Van[i]. He attended Erzrum Artsnyan elementary school (1896-1902), and continued his schooling in Yeramyan school of Van (1902-1906) and Nersissyan school of Tbilisi (1908-1912). After graduation he returned to Van in 1913 and was appointed a teacher in Haykazyan Kedronakan School. Having made his first steps in pedagogy he resolved to devote his career to the fields of education and culture. The well-known Armenian Communist and statesman Aghasi Khanjyan was among his students in Van.

During the July 1915 retreat from Van Tigran, together with his parents, sister and brothers escaped to Eastern Armenia. Between 1915-1918 he taught in Ashtarak school-orphanage, then, as the family moved to Tbilisi, he worked in school-orphanages adjunct to Haykazyan benevolent organization and Nersissyan school. He taught mathematics, physics, chemistry and natural sciences. In 1917-20 Jrbashyan studied in Transcaucasian University of Tbilisi and simultaneously worked for the mining laboratory of the Polytechnic Institute. As an outstanding student he was granted Poghos Nubar scholarship in 1920, which enabled him to pursue his education in Sorbonne. Shortly after, he transferred to Paris Mining Institute, which he graduated in 1925 with a degree of mining engineer-geologist. He was fluent in French, English and Russian. Jrbashyan worked simultaneously at the Natural History Museum in Paris, emerging as a truly brilliant specialist. He received a job offer from Ethiopian diplomats present at the defense of his thesis but declined it, explaining that he had vowed to bring back the experience and knowledge accumulated in Paris to his people and country.

At the end of 1925 Jrbashyan returned to Yerevan and got employed at Yerevan State University as a professor of general geology, mining and crystallography. He founded a crystallography-mining laboratory, a laboratory of general geology, a crystallography workshop as well as engaged in training of the personnel. In 1934 he was appointed the first Dean of Geography and Geology Faculty he helped to found, as well as Head of Chair of Geology. In 1935 he was awarded a title of professor (pic. 6). He prepared the curriculum for Geology classes (pic. 7) and compiled a dictionary of Armenian Geological terms, translated professional literature into Armenian. Unfortunately his works remained unfinished and were not published. In 1935-37 Jrbashyan continued his research in Geology Institute of the Armenian branch of USSR Academy of Sciences (precursor to Institute of Geological Sciences of NAS RA) and headed Kotayk geological expedition. In association with prominent geologist, founder of the institute H. Karapetyan, Jrbashyan founded the Geological Survey of the Republic. His discoveries made possible the establishment of such enterprises as “Aragats-Perlite”, “Haybnaguynkarer”,”Diatomites”, several plaster and construction materials works (pic 4, 5).

In 1927 Jrbashyan married Elbis Karaseferyan (1909-1986), whose family also hailed from Van. Elbis had lost both her parents in an early age and lived in Tbilisi with her brother Artash, who took care of her. The young family received an apartment in the building of ARC [Armenian Relief Committee], currently 19 Abovyan street. A number of other intellectuals, such as Derenik Demirjyan, Vahan Mirakyan, Nairi Zaryan, Ruben Zaryan, and Michael Manvelyan resided in the same block. Edgar recounts, “There were aftershocks following the [19]36 earthquake and our upstairs neighbors Michael Manvelyan and Nairy Zaryan, would knock at our door checking whether father was home. If he was, there was no imminent danger”. Ruben adds that upon the Government’s instructions his “father conducted 2-3 lectures in the House of Culture on dayly basis informing the residents of Yerevan about the causes of earthquake and the first protection measures to be taken in the event of an earthquake”.

On August 30, 1937 T. Jrbashyan returned from yet another fieldwork in Garni. Edgar recounts that it was his father’s dream to take him to school but it wasn’t destined to come true: he was arrested on the night of August 31. “Next day I was late from school and got punished for that”, says Edgar. “During the search they took several books and the whole correspondence dad had with colleagues from abroad, well-known scientists. I remember how they turned the apartment upside-down that night. They also took dad’s photo camera, which must have caught the eye of one of those rascals. They didn’t even mention it in the declaration[ii]“.

According to Ruben, “dad was never engaged in politics, never aligned himself with any party but he was a well-known and respected person. The charges were that he had studied in France and therefore was a foreign spy[iii]”. Edgar adds, “He died in NKVD basements[iv] after 15 days of incarceration[v]. That’s what we learned from the Ministry of Justice”. Ruben continues, “The indictment note is missing. The charges were pressed on allegations of espionage, however there is no evidence or grounds as of how the espionage was manifested[vi]. In 1930s dad was Aghasi Khanjyan’s advisor on mining issues. Khanjyan had considerable appreciation and respect towards him and followed his advices and that must have played a role in my father’s arrest. Immediately after the arrest we were evicted from the apartment and found ourselves in the street”. Edgar adds, “A Mneyan family moved into out flat. He was a head of department in the Central Committee and had an eye on our apartment… It was a three-room flat, in the city center… you know, they heard so much reproach from the neighbors for taking our home (gets emotional), that the floor was burning underneath them and they eventually moved out. When we were being evicted, they deeply offended mom: the workers were taking out our belongings and their foreman told my mother to be cautious not to scratch the floor. The new hosts were already in charge, they were watching as our articles were taken out”.

Ruden continues, “For the next 20 years, till [19]57, we rented a flat on Pushkin street, where the current Journalists House is located. Some 20-30 families lived there. We grew up, finished school and graduated from the university. In [19]57 the Moskovyan 8 building was constructed and we, as a family of a repressed, received a two-room apartment there. Repressed families of Danielyans and Orduknayans also received apartments in the same building.

At first the attitude toward us was unfriendly on Pushkin Street: we were called “children of an enemy of the people” but with time it improved. Mom inspired great respect; she was a very organized and tactful woman. She was a graduate of Biology Faculty of Yerevan State University and taught in the Medical Institute till the end of her life.Until dad’s rehabilitation mother could not aspire for a position of a Docent as her biography was not clean. The Rector of the Intstitute was Emil Gabrielyan, himself from a repressed background, so after father’s rehabilitation I went to him. “Emil jan [dear Emil], I said, your father returned, why do you mistreat my mother?” he said, brother [getting emotional], I’ll de damned if I don’t settle the issue as soon as possible. And in a couple of days he opened an additional position of a Docent and mom got the place by competition”.

Edgar went to secondary school after Krupskaya, Ruben – the school after Dzerzhinsky. Ruben recalls, “At school they knew my father was repressed but I felt no discrimination on behalf of my classmates or teachers. Many of my classmates were children of state dignitaries and some influential people but we were friends, I used to visit their homes. Their parents must have known but they never got in the way of our friendship for what they have my full-hearted gratitude. There is one episode concerning my school-years, it was in [1952] when father was not rehabilitated yet and I was going to graduate. The headmaster summoned my mother and told that she couldn’t grant a diploma of honors simply because she was not allowed to, but, she said, I could nevertheless enter a university and continue my studies. I applied for the Geology Faculty of Yerevan State University, I wanted to carry on the work of my father. Well, I didn’t face problems during my student years as well. As a matter of fact my professors were all former students of my dad and they all had warm memories and great respect for him (pic 8, 9, 10), which made me study even harder. I even got a Lenin Scholarship.

The June of [19]49 is noteworthy, because that month our family managed to avoid deportation. A neighbor of ours – Arshak, was a former military spy who worked for the KGB that time. He warned mother not to stay at home that night, so sleep somewhere else, which we did. It was strange for a person of his position to help us like that. I don’t know whether they came for us that night but I do remember the line of lorries that stood in out street that evening. The family of my classmate was taken then. We had already finished school when they returned. Well, the newspapers didn’t cover those events [1949 deportation], as if nothing had happened. I don’t quite remember whether there were discussions about it in school but later in the university, particularly after Stalin’s death, we did discuss these issues. When we would come together with friends at our place and the talks would lead to some hot political topics my mother used to say that every moth was followed and every word was being recorded. She wanted us to know the risk we were taking and be more cautious. She used to tell us about dad, about the kind and honest person he was, his devotion to work and the way he treated his colleagues and students.

Father was rehabilitated in [19]55. He was one of the first to be rehabilitated. A Russian colonel was in charge of the investigation, we have the acquittal document.

Stalin’s death was percieved controversially. There were various discourses in the society: some experiensed deep anxiety and were concerned for the future without the leader. People wept for the loss and claimed that the country will collapse without its leader. But no tears were shed in our family. I recall mother saying, “It’s over”. It is almost imposible to weight up the notion of personality cult in a nutshell. A state of universal fear dominated over the people. In this context many strove for self-assertion through violation of all norms of morality, discrediting and slandering other people. At the same time there was a prevailing sense of jealousy. Accusations and slander were a means of getting rid of people and taking over their positions, while lacking the relevant skills and knowledge. The system found manifold ways of embedding the ideology from above into the mindset of the people, “you perform a great duty for the benefit of our motherland, a duty that requires annihilation of all unworthy people”. Terrible to think that such thinking grew into widespread lifestyle and such system proved to be viable. And that holds true for the whole USSR. The Cheka and the KGB didn’t have to perform the operations relying on their resources only. The key factor was the sense of fear that deprived people of sovereignty and degraded them to slaves. That fear infected all quarters of the society.

During the last years of the Union, the values seemed to change but the party ideology, unfortunately, was only subsided with ideology of money. Lately, I have been observing attempts to restore Stalin’s image. Certain people of narrow mind and imprudence link his image only with restraint, strictness and absence of corruption. They don’t seem to recall the inhuman brutality of GULAG and the annihilation hundreds of thousands of people. That can never be forgotten much less excused.

I should also say that Armenian TV sometimes mentions certain people, individual victims of [19]37 and [19]49 but the repression exerted against the people as a whole has not become a subject commentaries, analyses and debates. Al least I never came across one.

To be honest I don’t know how the experience of the past may be used to avoid the recurrence of such phenomena in our days. Yes, we told our children about the fate of their elders, about [19]37 but they perceive it all dimly: it is definitely hard for them to imagine.

I find it hard to believe that [19]37 or [19]49 might return. Although it is dard to predict, the world changes so fast that it’s difficult to make sense of it all. I would say our society hasn’t rooted out the fear so far.

True, it looked like we got rid of it in [19]88 but it appears such awakening doesn’t last long. We simply didn’t manage to give due appresiation to the results of the movement and carry on with it. The awakening of those years created all necessary premises for progress but, alas, it didn’t work. He didn’t draw lessons form the victories in [19]88 and Karabakh. The realities of the last 22 years of our Republic and the current situation stand proof for that.

[i] The bulk of information on biographical and professional activities of Prof. Tigran Jrbashyan is drawn from L.A. Avagyan’s book “Tigran Jrbashyan” (Yerevam, 2004). Also see pic. 11-13.

[ii] In fact it was incorporated, however both copies remained with the criminal case of T. Jrbashyan (National Archive of Armenia, F. 1191, List 1, L. 1076, p. 7). A third copy either did not exist or was lost during resettlement that ensued the arrest. For little Edgar the feeling of physical loss of his “innocent” father must have mixed with the unfounded alienation of the “innocent” photo camera.

[iii] In 1955 T. Jrbashyan family received only the judgment of acquittal and was unaware of other circumstances of the investigation. Meanwhile, Jrbashyan had been followed by the security police since 1926 i.e. the exact same year he returned from Paris. That year, he allegedly met Arshak Safrastyan, regarded as a “British intelligence officer” and passed on to him information on “pyrite accumulation mining sites” which was seen as “economic espionage”. In 1927 he allegedly assisted “the intelligence officer on Neasr East of German General Staff Oskar Niedermayer” who arrived to Yerevan and intended to climb Mount Ararat. In 1932 he, reportedly, met british spy david Beckston, disguised as a botanists. On the abovementioned grounds he was accused under Article 58a of ASSR Penal Code. The condemnation note was made on June 7, 1937 and the arrest warrant was issued on August 11.

[iv] T. Jrbashyan’s case contains the report note of the interrogating officer, claiming that Jrbashyan felt weak after the accusation of espionage was put forward he collapsed and after regaining consciousness complained of heartache. He died in the morning. The autopsy performed by a non-professional medic asserted (there is a statement and the material of 1955 interrogation) that Jrbashyan had cardiovascular problems. However, the relatives of Prof. Jrbasyan claim that due to the nature of his work he walked a lot and never complained of health issues.

[v] The Jrbashyan family was notified about this only in 1955. On July 14, 1954 T. Jrbashyan’s sister Magda appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs of USSR, explaining that her mother Salome died never knowing about the fate of her son and now she asked to “review my brother’s case and if he is alive rehabilitate him, in case he is deceased at least rehabilitate his name”. Ruben Jrbashyan recalls that his mother used to have visitors who told that they had seen Tigran or had been together in Syberia. Thus, the family indeed hoped that Tigran was alive.

[vi] The minute investigation of the Transcaucasian Military District military prosecutor’s assistant Krilov proved that in 1955. Examination of the available documents and interrogation of the witnesses (inter alia one of the former investigators) revealed that the charges pressed against T. Jrbashyan were fictitious, unfounded, unverified and not proven (the rehabilitation decision is narrated in a 6-page document).

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