On March 5, 2011, Policy Forum Armenia held an evening honoring the memory of a prominent Soviet-era dissident, a member of the “7 patriots”, Vigen Babayan. The event’s featured guests were:
- Azat Gasparyan, renown actor and narrator (evening’s moderator);
- Paruyr Hayrikyan, prominent Soviet-era dissident and the leader of the National Self-Determination Union (AIM); and
- Shahen Harutyunyan, a founder of the Soviet-era underground United National Party (AMK).
Jailed in early-1960s for underground activities aimed at proclaiming independent Armenia and recognizing the Genocide, the “7 patriots”—as the group became known in Armenia following their trial and imprisonment—laid the foundations for independence and pro-democracy movement in Armenia and elsewhere in the USSR. Years spent in Siberian gulags and countless KGB interrogations could not break Vigen Babayan’s iron will and lessen his commitment to what he stood for. The volumes of poetry that he left behind are live testaments of his sufferings, but also of limitless love for his motherland and freedom. To the young generation of Armenians, who fought for country’s independence and for the freedom of Artsakh, Vigen Babayan is known as the voice behind the “Voice of America” Armenian service reporting during the late-1980s and early-1990s.
"Celebrating the legacy of Vigen Babayan and others, who put their lives on the line for free and independent Armenia, at times when there seemed no hope on the horizon, is of particular importance now given the events unfolding in Armenia. This epic story is as much about the past as it is about today and tomorrow," said a member of the community who attended the event.
The event was held at the Cosmos Club and was co-sponsored by members of the Washington's Armenian community.
Additional pictures from the event are available in Photo Gallery.