by Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian


Book Review

An Armenian Sketchbook, by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, with an introduction and notes by Robert Chandler and Yury Bit-Yunan, published by the New York Review of Books, 2013, USA.

British Edition; With an Introduction and Appendices by Robert Chandler and Yuri Bit-Yunan, published by Maclehose Press, Quercus, London, 2013; Price, £12 Hrd.


You may not have heard of Vasily Grossman yet, but soon, you will be glad you were one of the first to have heard of him. First, about the risky spelling of his first name – his Germanic surname; Grossman with double “s” cannot be mispronounced. And by a strange coincidence, which can be explained only by Karl Jung’s theory of Synchronicity, it does mean a “Great Man” – very apt for the great writer that Grossman became.

His first name though, Vasily, must be spelt (in English) with a double “s”, not to run the risk of being mispronounced with a “z” in English discourse; “Vazily” – note that some English people pronounce “us” as “uz”.

The Russian βαcили has no such a problem of verbal mis-articulation – “Vassily” is a common Russian form (another is “Bazil”), both of the classical Greek word βασιλεός (“Bassileos” meaning “Lion-King”).

In search of Soviet literary gold mines, Western publishers are falling over backwards trying to locate some, for untapped riches, monetary wealth beyond dreams, even more than they made on the backs of Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, and Yevtushenko … And who remembers them now, now that they have lost their anti-Soviet shine? The Soviet Union may not exist any more, but its capitalist exploitation is as vivid and real and good-business as even at the worst time of rabid anti-Soviet Reds-under-the-beds times of blind Churchillean/McCarthyist hatred.

At American Universities we as teenagers were being brainwashed by mad Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist junk, our teenage minds raped by Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and its copy-cat derivative Orwell’s 1984 (both puppies of the original Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1932, where Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union features prominently but strangely feminised as Lenina). Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain was not bad though thickly symbolical as only the Germans could be, full of prettified death-obsession, and love of disease. American thicko professors could not even dream of understanding that the same author’s A Death in Venice was glorified homosexual paedophilia – the other side of copy-cat Nabokov’s Lolita, supposedly of heterosexual paedophilia. But there can be no such thing; little girls are like little boys, breastless, and pass muster as little boys. Paedophilia thus remains always a homosexual problem, something psychologists have not latched onto hitherto.

I have read (but can’t find the reference) that the above-mentioned Thomas Mann, the sometime darling of the American University General Education syllabi, has written somewhere that anti-communism was the 20th century’s greatest stupidity; A Winston Churchill-spread (actually Hitler-invented, Churchill-infected) terminal brain disease, like VD, it lets the victim behave normally until it strikes him stridently with sudden madness, literally, until a painful gradual death over several years. It is tragic, when it attacks otherwise excellent British historians, like Sebag Montefiore – the US film-maker Oliver Stone (The Untold History of the United States) is just about able to save the Soviet Union’s historical honour (led by Joseph Stalin) of saving the world from Nazi domination and … Mr. Montefiore’s blood-curdling clutches; Niall Ferguson in love with anything stinking of capitalism, adores Empires, any would do, even the ones ran by Chinese eunuchs; Prof. Antony Beevor, the final word on Stalingrad, though a compulsive colour-blind; Dominic Sandbrook, from the London Daily Mail Right-wing stables, who would like a Britain populated by Donkeys ridden by the upper-class “pure” English.

Hindsight for a historian is a god-given tool to dig up historical truths buried under layers of imperialist archival toiletry … but the Churchillian communist-hating VD blinds the historian against even Hindsight, throwing him into the abyss of chaotic worthless value-judgments, against which even the Nobel Prize is not immunized (declaring the Vietnam War-criminal Henry Kissinger a Peacenik – the man speaks English like a concentration camp Commandant).

Winston Churchill, post-modern Britain’s national hero buried in Westminster Abbey was in actual fact a most ridiculous man – everything he touched, it turned into … desert dust. His greatest war-plan, the Battle of Gallipoli (1915) in the Bosporous straits was an act of the greatest military stupidity, costing half a million lives all around. Churchill’s supremacist racism was such that he regarded the Turks as a race of idiots, inferior sub-humans, but who whacked him with such ferocity, as to bemedal him in the British Parliament with the sobriquet of The Butcher of Gallipoli. Churchill (perhaps autistic) replicated thirty years later (1944) precisely the same incredible tactical stupidity in the battle of Monte Cassino (Italy), forcing his cannon-fodder soldiers to attack uphill, climb from below, mountain tops where the enemy was heavily entrenched and could pour ordinances killing Churchill’s sitting ducks … Churchill could care little, and even less, as the Gallipoli soldiers he abused were from the colonies (Australia and New Zealand), and the Monte Cassino heroes were mere … expendable Poles!

When the Nazis occupied France, Churchill ordered … the sinking of the French Navy drowning 7 thousand marines, his allies, human flesh-and-blood just like that, merely to prevent Hitler from confiscating the French warships … Churchill, a bulldog of war in sheep’s clothing, was continuing the Chamberlain policy of encouraging Hitler to destroy the Soviet Union – so, when Stalin kindly requested that the Allies open a second Western front in Northern Europe to relieve the Red Army of the Nazi pest, Churchill opened a front in North … Africa!

Churchill did everything to distract and delay the US President Roosevelt from the Normandy landing. On one of his regular visits to Washington DC (29th December 1941), in a totally uncalled for homoerotic scene, Churchill shocked the poor old President out of his wits, when he exposed his fat rotund body unnecessarily to the American president – “Churchill was in the bathroom of his room at the White House when he heard Franklin Roosevelt calling him. He emerged, a naked pink cherub, drying himself with a towel and without a stitch on, to find the President waiting in a chair.” (Dan Plesch, America, Hitler and the UN, I.B Tauris Publishers, London, 2011, p.1) The ordinary British working class electorate could finally put Churchill outside harm’s way by defeating him in the elections following the Second World War. Churchill had fought his battles to save the British Empire, unlike the Soviet people who had battled to save the world from the Nazi cancer. Towards the end of the Second World War, when Stalin had requested the return to Soviet Armenia of the Armenian territories of Kars and Ardahan occupied by Turkey, Roosevelt agreed, but Winston Churchill emphatically rejected it, as he was foot-licking Turkey into his dreamland fantasy of building up a castle in the air against the Soviet Union.

Churchill-constructed iron-curtain train drove immeasurable riches into the coffers of the Western media; Hollywood, publishers, news-makers, but they could not save Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago, 1957), Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago 1973) and Yevtushenko (Babi Yar, a poem 1961) out of the mire of single mediocre works lionized as orgasmic peaks of anti-Sovietism. And here is a gem of the hilarious literary criticism anti-Soviet compulsion emanates; “Darkness at Noon” is considered to be one of the most influential anti-Soviet books ever written” ( I wonder if it is even in print anymore.

The same is now being tried with Vasily Grossman’s considerable oeuvre, but fortunately Grossman is unlike any of the above, not a mediocrity but a writer of classical Russian greatness, waltzing with Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, you name it …

Anti-Soviet? My Foot!

And this great modern, classical, not anti-Soviet writer, who stayed and died (in 1964, from stomach cancer) a … Soviet writer in Moscow, aged 59, visited Soviet Armenia two years before his death, and to our (Armenians’) great good fortune wrote this masterly book, the original title of which is an untranslatable Armenian greeting, Barev Dzez – I do not know what Hello means in English (a Christian comic once uttered it as Hell-O), Saluts in French means a mere “Hello”, but barev in Armenian is a complex of multiple meanings; literally it means “Let there be good”, hence “God’s (understood) Blessings” – let us not forget that the Armenians were the first in history to convert officially (with King and Country) to Christianity in 301 AD – historically, a most revolutionary act in a world of pagan polytheism. Barev (in Armenian) is thus the most meaningful, compassionate, heart-warming greeting possible, wishing (praying) a fellow human being be endowed with God’s very own blessings.

And Grossman understood the complexity of this simple historical linguistic fact as a profoundly humane evolutionary cultural development worthy of a paradigmatic significance for a better future of mankind. It is a measure of Grossman’s own much-tortured humanity (he was a war correspondent for the Soviet Red Star, covering the most terrifying battles of Moscow, Kursk, Stalingrad, and Berlin, while Churchill was tumbling in the sands of Africa … ) that Grossman could write the most beautiful ending of any book I have yet encountered (and I have ten thousand books in my private library), and here it is in full – I could kiss as a sacred relic every word he utters here, in a prayer-mode – I am certain it is intended as such, although with warm angelic humour;

Though mountains be reduced to mere skeletons, may mankind endure forever.

Accept these lines from a translator from Armenian who knows no Armenian.

Probably I have said much that is clumsy and wrong. But all I have said, clumsy or not, I have said with love.

Barev dzez – all good to you, Armenians and non-Armenians!

Quoting these lines brings tears to my eyes even now.

Such humanitarians as Grossman must never die. Come to think of it, they don’t. The beauty of those words are incomparable, and their meaning immeasurable.

A Translation of sheer perfection

All honour be to the translators, Robert Chandler and his wife Elizabeth. They have produced a translation which is so masterly, so perfect; it is chiselled, but smooth like a Michelangelo marble, and as miraculous. I do not know how Michelangelo achieved that marble- smoothness of the hardest rock, I am equally puzzled by the Chandlers’ (I shall not hesitate to use the epithet) divine skill. Their translation reads like an un-translatable original. I hope and pray that it is not better than Grossman’s … Russian original (the Chandlers must be given a dacha and do nothing else but translate from Russian non-stop day and night).

I worry that I have not unravelled enough the multiple meaning profundities of the above quotation especially that it sums up magnificently the textured layers of the whole book. Let us begin with the very last line and the words – blessings onto all, Armenians and non-Armenians alike … which leaves absolutely no doubt about Grossman’s … communist internationalism. In democracy, you wash your dirty clothes in public and let them hang out to dry. In a fascist state, you don’t even wash – filthy undergarments are passed down generations as gifts from ultra-nationalist killer-heroes.

Ultra-nationalist extremists are all alike, whether US Ku Kluks Klan, Nazi German, Turkish Grey Wolf, Armenian Dashnak Tseghakron Nzhdehist, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Burmese and Indonesian perverted Buddhist Monks, Indian Hindu Club-wavers, British National Front and its Darwinist permutations – they all think racist, and superior, wanting to kill everybody else, especially the immigrants they abuse as slave labour, fodder for Small Businesses much beloved by Big Business Banks. And Grossman loathed them. What rational person can blame him – Racist nationalism always leads to genocides, a profitable source of income for warmongering capitalist bankers and insurers.

Out of sheer Love, Grossman’s humbling apology for his intellectual frailties, is as Christian as Jesus’ universal message. It displays Grossman’s non-orthodox Reformist Jewish enlightenment.

Moving backwards and up, the sweet self-deprecation in the next line, defines the risible predicament of the Soviet bureaucratic literary foolishness, of getting ‘their selected intellectuals’ translate from languages they did not know. It also displays Grossman’s stand-up comic’s genius for throwing one-liner daggers.

Last but not least, the mountains being reduced to mere skeletons refers to the Damoclian nuclear Sword hanging over mankind’s potential annihilation, the hottest topic of the Churchillean Cold War. Winston Churchill, drunk most of the time (President Roosevelt’s impression) slurring his vowels and spluttering his consonants, was desperate to persuade the next US president Harry Truman (a brother Freemason) to annihilate Communist Russia with nuclear bombs, before Stalin could lay his hands on some, which of course stopped the drunken fool in his warmongering tracks; After all, it was Churchill who had created the avuncular image of Stalin in the West, calling him Uncle Joe (with reference to Uncle Sam). But when this communist uncle would not submit to his British Empire fantasies, Churchill would not hesitate to backstab Stalin, imitating Hitler’s deed who had tried the same after declaring friendship with the Soviets (the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement), which was in turn replicating the earlier British-German accord with Prime Minister Chamberlain (and his famous toilet-paper signed by “Herr Hitler” himself). Chamberlain’s government’s fond hope was that by encouraging Hitler to attack the Soviet Union, the latter would finish off the Soviets, doing the British imperialists’ dirty job.

Stalin was no racist fool, unlike Churchill who was an ardent Eugenicist (wishing to eliminate the “mental defectives” which included people suffering from … migraine) and believed in the proto-Nazi ideal that the British upper crust (originating from Henry the VIII’s Monastery-destroying robbers, thieves and cut-throats) were destined to rule the rest of the world as their slaves. Stalin (and Grossman) knew full well of Churchill’s … Chamberlain-esque proto-Nazi intentions, hence their desire for mankind to endure.

God in the Old Testament had promised Noah that he will never again destroy mankind with a flood, displaying his decision with a colourful Rainbow. Capitalists on the other hand, want not mankind, but their Profits, Mammon, the Golden Calf, to endure, their Bank accounts and slave-servants. Since Reverend Malthus in 1798 (An Essay on the Principle of Population), they have been complaining about the world being overcrowded, the Poor breeding like rabbits, and gobbling up the food meant for the rich! Recently, astonishingly, the BBC-sainted naturalist David Attenborough has been making similar noises and grunts under our own noses. Some people are seriously fearful that the new more affluent Chinese are going to eat up their Western beef from the dilapidated Amazon forests, deforested as cattle-ranches for MacDonalds.

May mankind endure forever is Grossman’s passionate Soviet citizen’s desire – Having survived the Nazi evil, only as a Communist internationalist intellectual could he feel for and want and do everything to help a better social life, not as imperialist cannon fodder killing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt , not as Banking fodder skinned alive by the British and American austerity measures-obsessed governments de-regulating the rape of their countries and citizenry by continuously raising prices and indecent profit-margins on public transport, utility companies – gas, electricity, water … education, health … all madly privatised or on the verge of it.

The first part of the sentence (mountains being reduced to skeletons) refers also to one of the grand themes of Grossman’s book – manifesting Armenia as the country of rocks, stones, broken mountains, the most ancient, actually, the oldest volcanic piece of earth on this planet.

The Historical Significance of the Armenian Highlands

Soviet Armenians were ambiguous about the stony nature of their country’s landscape. They complained about it non-stop in a kind of proud manner … that they cannot take blood out of stone, that they cannot feed on stone or make clothes out of it, that they could not hence create business and trade, ‘capitalist’ wealth from stones, they were forced by their country’s nature to stay … communist! I wrote an article at the time in the Armenian Diaspora press pointing out that the range of the stone-kinds in Soviet Armenia was numberless, and the richest in the world, from Black Obsidian (that the Inca and the Maya loved), to the volcanic Rose-pink Tufa that the Soviet Armenians used, to face their official buildings with ornamental beauty. These were all exportable and hugely profitable – Granite and Basalt for gravestones in Britain for example. I was listened to, and the Soviet Armenian state began (just before the final collapse of the Union) exporting the Tufa (to South America I think). At one point, the Soviet Armenian scientists had invented a miraculous chemical process to produce a range of mundanely useful products from stone, literally – like imitation woollen-threads for any kind of knitwear! It was miraculous industrial news finally rendering the metaphor of making bread out of … stone real for the Soviet Armenians. To this day, I remember the impact of the news and wonder, whatever happened to its practical capitalist exploitation?

Grossman, amazingly, alone in the world of international belles letters has picked up on this Soviet Armenian intellectual mantra, and has produced one of the most beautiful chapters (Ch. 10) ever written anywhere – the book is worth its weight in gold for this chapter alone;

What expresses the soul of Armenia is stone” – the Armenian Nazi-Nzhdehists will hate the ambiguity of this line, as they would be too dumb-ass (like all the racist nationalists of any fascist folks) to appreciate what follows;

I have never seen so much stone scattered about the ground – and I have seen the Urals, the cliffs of the Caucasus, and the Tien Shan (in the Chinese language, it means, tien=Heavenly shan=Mountain, the highest accolade in classical Chinese culture – Prof HIP). What strikes you in Armenia is not the stone of gorges, steep mountainsides, or snow-capped peaks. Far more striking is the stone that lies flat on the ground: the stone meadows and fields, the stone steppe.

There is no beginning or end to this stone. There it lies – flat and thick on the ground. There is no escape from it.

Have you ever seen or rather experienced such a unique country in the world? And here comes Grossman’s most potent meditative insight that unwittingly, by sheer instinctual creative genius and intuition, defines the territory of Armenia as the earliest piece of volcanic land on the waters of this planet, and its people as the first hominids (I call humanoids) of the world, making their stone axes, collapsing mountains, creating language and culture;

It is as if countless stonecutters have been at work –thousands, tens of thousands, millions of stonecutters, working day and night, for years on end, for centuries, for millennia. They must have used wedges and hammers (puns on the hammer-and-sickle concept of the Soviet Red flag – Prof HIP) to dismantle huge mountains. They must have smashed them into splinters – splinters they could use to build huts, temples, or the walls of fortresses. From what they left behind in this vast quarry you could make a mountain so high that the snow on its peaks would never melt. There is still enough stone to build any number of towers of Babel, from the one swallowed up by the sands three thousand years ago to the skyscrapers that buzz with activity on the far side of the Atlantic.


I began to think of this small nation as a giant nation.

I looked at Armenia’s silent, implacable stone – and thought about all the fruit I had seen in the collective farm market on the day I arrived in Yerevan.

Only a giant has the strength to turn stone into mounds of juicy vegetables and the very sweetest of grapes…. only titanic labour can have extracted grape juice from basalt.

And on, and on, Grossman weaves his miraculous tapestry of Armenia. It is impossible to categorize this work. It shatters all moulds of literary genres. It is NOT a travelogue, not a Memoir, fiction or non-fiction, poetic or historical faction – It is all of them in ONE, perhaps a deep meditative philosophical contemplation of what it means to be oneself, beginning by feeling being an … Armenian, the first hominims, hominids, humanoids, the first people on earth born of a volcanic mountainous landscape, but also being a modern non-Armenian (remember the last words of the book quoted above?), being Jewish, Chinese, Arab … a sheer human being beyond race and religion, skin-colour or specific faith.

Via Armenia, Grossman journeys through the peoples of the world to arrive at … himself, as a creative Spirit, an embodied Soul (the famous Russian Dukha) in the likeness of God, the creator of all things, Good and … Evil – an ancient Judaic/Rabbinic concept argues for God’s omnipotence in the creation and evolution of evil; Satan, after all, was the first among angels, before his pathetic fall as a result of envying, desiring and conspiring for God’s power!

The Devil in Grossman

And there is a lot of evil in Grossman. When I first discovered it, I was deeply disturbed. I put myself in his shoes and put it down to his unbearable eye-witness experiences of the imperialist genocidal battles of the Second World War. People get perverted today in peaceful London by capitalist consumerist obsessions, let alone witnessing the Nazi concentration camps as Grossman did, or the cannibalistic street-by-street battles in Stalingrad. Grossman’s motivation of writing his ‘Armenian’ masterpiece – which I think is a masterpiece of the whole of the 20th century, has given rise to daft speculations, that he needed the money (which he certainly did not, having achieved the status of a famous Soviet Writer), that he needed the holiday … well, anyone could do with a holiday anytime.

The immediate reason was a well-paid commission to ‘translate’ the multi-volume novel of the Armenian Tolstoy, Hratchia Kotchar, who had imitated Tolstoy’s Napoleonic War & Peace to re-invent it, conceptualising the noble contribution of the Soviet Armenians to the defeat of Nazism – Armenians had just suffered the most shocking genocide of the 20th century, whereby 1.5 million of them (out of a population of 2 million) were massacred by the Ottoman Turks (in 1915) on death marches to the deserts of Syria (my parents as children among them). Some Armenian survivors (among them my father’s older brother, Mihran Pilikian, with his family) had filled the tiny stamp-sized land now part of the Soviet Union, left over from their Anatolian homelands now occupied by the nouveaux Turks, forged by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk into a higgledy-piggledy “Turkish” nation.

The Soviets, hopelessly perverted by the unrelenting British empire-led conspiracies to destroy them, first the formation of White-Russian armies doing their filthiest and failing, followed by a despicable civil-war backfiring, then Chamberlain’s nursing of the Hitler-monster to be released onto the Soviets, followed by Churchill’s plan to nuke them by Truman’s hands … all of which drove Uncle Joe finally mad, and Stalin turned into a second … Churchill, doing idiotic things … like promoting a Khrushchev to wash his dirty linen … Like Master, like servant, during Khrushchev’s half-baked thaw, the KGB retards invaded Grossman’s Moscow flat to … “arrest” the manuscripts of his penultimate book, Life and Fate. Arrest, is how Grossman perceived it, as a proxy to himself being arrested, which thank god did not follow, giving him enough courage to write directly to Khrushchev demanding the release of his unpublished book. Grossman was famous enough for his letter to be noted – he was granted an audience with Mikhail Suslov, another grotesque communist caricature parading as shoe-banger Khrushchev’s ideologue, the Cultural Ministerial jerk. Grossman recorded Suslov’s quite amazing comments (and we have only Grossman’s word for it); “Why should we add your book to the atomic bombs that our enemies are preparing to launch against us? {Quoted in Under Siege, A beloved Soviet writer’s path to dissent, by Keith Gessen, The New Yorker, March 6, 2006).

Frankly, I don’t believe a word of this being uttered by Suslov. I consider it to be a superb example of what I mean by the anti-communist stupidity of Western critics losing their wits dealing with such matters. I have no doubt that the quote is an evil naughty joke (and very funny too!) by Grossman himself aggrandizing his work as equivalent to a nuclear bomb capable of destroying the vast Soviet Union. It is also a learned joke, displaying Grossman’s grasp of the international situation of unrelenting conspiracies to destroy the Soviets. Bluntly, Suslov was too idiotic a blinkered Soviet bureaucrat to have expressed such subtle humour. Suslov was on the level of Khrushchev banging his shoe on the tables of the United Nations in New York.

The silly speculation that Grossman was encouraged to travel to Armenia out of a need of his translation work is unfortunately gaining ground and becoming a dogma. It was a low of Soviet bureaucratic stupidity to force writers to translate works the original language of which they did not know. It is one thing to order a literal translation, then have it radically edited by a second, ignorant of the original language, and another to pretend that the editor (usually a famous Soviet author) is … the translator, eliminating the poor true translator from the records! Grossman is determined to have a good laugh calling this Soviet bluff by emphasizing his total ignorance of the Armenian language, and his dependence on the original translator.

The miracle that was Soviet Armenia, and the Armenian Pioneers of Leninism

What could have been then the true motive of Grossman’s visit to Soviet Armenia?

Armenia occupied a very special status and a tender place at the Moscow-heart of the Soviet Union. Armenians were regarded as Russia’s “little brother”. A little known historical fact is that the Founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had a few first class Armenian comrades-in-arms, Stepan Shahumian being the most prominent. Based in Baku (historically an Armenian city, the capital of present-day Azerbaijan which came into existence only by the pen of Stalin), Shahumian was trusted by Lenin to be his deputy/Second at the heartland of the whole of Caucasus Lenin had mapped out as Great Armenia (to include present-day Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan). The secret map was seen by Armen Karo, a leader of the anti-communist political party the Dashnak, who was one of three Reps invited to the Kremlin for negotiations by Lenin’s resident aid, comrade Karakhanov, another prominent Armenian revolutionary, who one evening leaves the map deliberately ‘unwittingly’ on his own desk, during a break (reminisced by Armen Karo in his Memoirs published only in Armenian, in Beirut, Lebanon).

The British knew of Lenin’s plan to declare the whole of Caucasus as Armenia (which historically it was), and by abusing the Dashnak as their own stooges, the British army succeeded in arresting (betrayed by the Dashnak) and executing Shahumian formally as war booty in the Caucasian theatre.

The Dashnak-betrayals unfortunately did not end there – during the Second World War, two of their leaders committed the unforgivable; Nzhdeh (today worshipped by racist retards as a … deity in the Republic of Armenia) published in Berlin in the Armenian language a monthly of Nazi racist junk! (Issues have survived in the National archives of Yerevan); Dro, a military idiot worse than Churchill, who constituted a rag-tag army of Armenian retards as a division of the SS to teach the Soviet Armenians a concentration-camp lesson when the Hitler-hordes would reach Caucasian Armenia … They then murdered in cold blood with a butcher’s meat cleaver Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, the Primate of Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic church of North America – The Holy-Cross in the Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York, during the Sunday Service on (incredibly) Christmas Eve morning (24 December) in 1933 (Terry Philips, Murder at the Altar, Hye Books, PO Box 12492, Bakersfield, California, just published). The Dashnak Julius Caesar-killers were convinced, the blind lunatics that they were, that the Archbishop was a … Communist. For this crime alone, the Dashnak Party which still exists today and is occasionally part of the present government in Armenia must apologize unreservedly to the Armenian nation.

It is ridiculous to expect of the Turkish governments to acknowledge their Young Turk genocide of the Armenians, when the Armenian Dashnak Party, in the service of the CIA, would dispatch its youth (as recently as in the 1950’s) to West Germany to be trained in secret military camps in Gestapo terrorist techniques of torture and murder. The trainee Armenian Dashnak murderers would then attempt to genocide the Armenian communists of the Middle East, for massive hard CIA cash subsidies to the Party leaders. According to the well-informed Lebanese Armenian intellectual, Kardash Onnig, author (Le(h)ran Vokin = The Spirit of the Mountain, Stanfordville, New York, pp 18-9) and a distinguished sculptor living and creating in New York, by 1958, “around 300 of the best Armenian youth, the cultured elite of the Lebanese Armenian life were already killed” by the Dashnak – also known as an English acronym ARF {Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the founders’ original name of the party, one of them, Christapor Mikaelian the main instigator was a genuine young Marxist, and a freedom fighter, spinning in his grave daily, under-hearing how the baby he created has become a CIA-criminal, the CIA-Bosses regarding him as a terrorist who died (1905, aged 46) in a mountain (in Bulgaria) while testing bombs}. Christapor’s grief in the grave must be unbearable, the earth on him soaked in tears, for the ARF he created, today is neither revolutionary, nor a Marxist federation, but a very sophisticated fascist pole-dancer, merely after money, money, and more … money, does anything for money.

Lenin had tried his absolute best to persuade the Dashnaks to support his attempts to protect the Armenian territorial rights in his negotiations with Mustafa Kemal, only to be rebuffed and betrayed blatantly by them (the murder of Shahumian by the British), while Kemal Ataturk meanwhile very cleverly succeeded in presenting to Lenin an image of himself as an anti-colonialist warrior. Lenin was left with no choice but to compromise the Armenian rights, not at all aware of Kemal’s secretive sustenance from the British and the French imperialists. Lenin just about could save a little Armenia (a mere 30,000 km2) from a massive 300,000 km2 lost to Kemal Ataturk’s Turkey.

US President, Woodrow Wilson’s speech to the Congress (on Jan 8, 1918) defining his famous Fourteen Points for world Peace, was actually inspired and a noble response to Vladimir Lenin’s Decree on Peace ДЕКРЕТЪ O МИРЪ published immediately after the October Revolution (8th November, 1917), announcing Bolshevik Russia’s withdrawal from the First World War, to help realize an achievable “just democratic peace” for the whole world, pre-dating all such hypocritical American nonsense in our own days – Lenin’s decree “proposes to all warring peoples and their governments, to begin at once negotiations leading to a just democratic peace” –

I say, by the way, Ahenu, Ben Israel, shemah = Our Brothers, children of Israel, Hear, to make peace in Palestine, Listen to Lenin’s holy words, the founder of the Soviet Union practising what he preached by withdrawing from the world war … corrupted and disgraced nowadays by Anglo-American-Israeli imperialist genociders warring the peoples of the world non-stop!

Even President Wilson listened to Lenin; the US President had warm, almost maternal protective words for Lenin’s Bolshevik Russia – the Number Six is the lengthiest passage of his Fourteen Points, and the most rational, non-hysterical, and profoundly humanitarian acceptance of Bolshevism by a Western leader, calling on the world to leave Russia in peace to determine its own fate and regime (unlike the Bushite regime-change obsession). Hitting hard at the British international military conspiracy of causing the civil-war in Russia with the White Russians as tools (as today similarly in Syria with the Al-Qaida tools), the noble American President demanded

( Point) 6 : The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.

If President Wilson had not died so unexpectedly (from cerebral haemorrhage), the world would have been a very different place today – less conflictual, more peaceful. There can be little doubt that President Wilson’s map of an independent Armenia (granting 300.000 km2) liberated from the heartland of Ottoman Turkey was inspired by Lenin’s own map of Great Caucasian Armenia, which the idiots of the Dashnak party leadership subverted, the most prominent being Simeon Vratsian, a fourth-rate Prime Minister of the first short-lived Armenian Republic (1918-20) ruled by the Dashnak Party, who could not bear the loss of his status and lived out the rest of his life in Beirut, reeking havoc on the Armenian cause, playing musical chairs, sitting in every anti-communist CIA bandwagon he could find. If one’s surname were indicative of one’s identity, it is very likely that Vratsian was not even an Armenian, as Vratsi (in the Armenian language) means a Georgian! Vratsian was the great Churchillian-style backstabber in Armenian political history.

Were it not for the infantile bully-boy immaturity of the Dashnak party leadership, if the Armenian political leadership of the other parties too generally had possessed an evolved consciousness of the national interest rather than internecine childish feuds, individual pathetic narcissistic ambitions for personal status, if the Armenian politicos had heard and understood of the British Prime Minister and a great Freemason Grandmaster Lord Palmerston’s famous statement, that “We [the British] have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow” {Speech to the House of Commons, 1 March 1848, Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates. 3rd series, vol. 97}, we, the Armenians today may have had an Armenia as one of the largest countries in the world, at least 600.000 km2, constituted of Lenin’s Great Armenia (the whole of the Caucasus) descending naturally into the Wilsonian Armenia, 300.000 km2 of Eastern Anatolia. Still, this would have been tiny compared to the proto-historical single landmass of pre-Hittite Armenia (10.000 BC) that was composed of the whole of the present day Turkey (Anatolia), stretching upwards into the Caucasus, and descending down into Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Another much valued comrade of Lenin’s was Vahan Terian, moreover, a poet, and the greatest lyricist of the modern Eastern Armenian literature. Terian’s every poem is a piece of piano music. Curiously, his published work is entirely rid of political themes or allusions.

The Tamanian Tank Division (my own father, Israel Pilikian had fundraised in Iraq and Iran for the Red Army) was among the first to arrive at the gates of Nazi Berlin. Marshal Hovhanness Baghramian was one of General Zhukov’s generals that cut off the Nazi cancer from the world’s body-politic. Anastas Mikoyan (the brother of the inventor of the MIG fighter planes) was the only person who had survived the Stalin purges and was even eventually towards the end of his life honoured by being elected as the President of the Soviet Union. Mikoyan was the negotiator that could persuade Khrushchev to withdraw the Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles from Cuba, saving the world from certain nuclear annihilation.

Soviet Armenia had thus the reputation of being a soul-cleansing healing place for the corrupt and the spiritually bankrupt Soviet bureaucracy. They sojourned there for a bit of mountain fresh air, spiritual renewal, and creative regeneration. The famous English gay composer, Benjamin Britten, a pioneer of Gay Liberation, and his singer partner Peter Pears loved it in Soviet Armenia and were always welcomed with open arms.

The puzzle thus of Vasily Grossman’s decision to sojourn there had this precise cause, a wish for spiritual cleansing and intellectual renewal, not the advertised nonsense of wishing to have a holiday or get some money together. The content of the book proves my point abundantly. Grossman went to Soviet Armenia there to find … himself, encounter his own soul, discover and define his intellectual creative identity, and feel like God, being in his image, finally to BECOME HIM.

Grossman succeeds gloriously and perfectly, fulfils his spiritual quest entirely, like Gurdjieff (another famous Armenian) he mentions. Grossman is aware of his precious and priceless achievement and defines it very early on in his book (Ch. 5) in his inimitable style of masterly discourse, simultaneously manifesting (what I call) a god-complex, the archetypal male predicament under which the best of men seem to suffer, while women seem free of it (perhaps because they give birth to the child, as their own substitute act of god-being).

This archetypal male god-complex, like all things, can go either way, in the path of evil (with Satan, the Nazis, and the imperialist swine, the modern capitalist warmongers accumulating blood-money in Blood-Banks) or the good – the latter of course with the best of men (with Jesus, and the saints, the peacemakers and the healers, the classical composers and the painters, not Damien Hirst of the morgues, and Tracey Emin of the filthy bed);

With penetrating insight and an all pervading excitement, you absorb a huge universe – houses, trees, faces of passersby, signs, squares, smells, dust, cats and dogs, the colour of the sky. During these minutes, like an omnipotent God, you bring a new world into being, you create, you build inside yourself a whole city with all its streets and squares, with its courtyards and patios, with its sparrows, with its thousands of years of history, with its food shops, and its shops for manufactured goods, with its opera house and its canteens. This city that suddenly arises from nonbeing is a special city; it differs from the city that exists in reality – it is the city of a particular person.

This is also Grossman’s profound apology and explanatory excuse to all potential numbskulls (the Armenian nationalist fascist retards in the first place) who shall feel offended that his book is not about a nation and its famous sons, the camp statues of ballsy men and chesty women sculpted by Stalinist tools and their fools … Grossman leaves them to their superficial ‘heroic’ pathetic nationalist glories. He is interested in the ‘little’ people, grotesques perverted by the evils of this genocidal planet.

The Soviet Armenians would have liked Grossman to speak of their intellectual glories, Viktor Hambartsumian, the world-famous Astrophysicist, and the Founder of Radio-astronomy now a commonplace of universal Astronomy and technology (one of my cousins was Hambartsumian’s driver); of composer Aram Khatchaturian (our family friend) whose Sabre-Dance was the greatest single hit of world-music … Instead, Grossman narrates of the … Molokans, the ethnic Russian enclave of an Orthodox sect surviving happily in Armenia and loving it.

And when Grossman tells of real Armenians, he selects characters so deeply disturbed and disturbing, unbearable even to read about them; Hollywood (and Quentin Tarantino) with all modern compugraphics, could not portray such shocking Hammer Horror grotesques. Grossman’s portrayals are haunting and unforgettable, and a measure of the power of his masterly skill – in a few pages, Grossman distils a whole novel of thousand and one pages;

Arutyun, the mournful dismal, round-shouldered night watchman, with the big nose…. I think he never sleeps – some huge sadness prevents him. He never speaks to anyone; no one visits him. … What’s the matter with him?

….. Arutyun had five sons. The eldest worked as a drilling engineer. He was killed a year ago in a drunken brawl; someone smashed him on the head with a piece of iron piping. The villagers say he was a bad man. They feel sorry not for him, but for the man who killed him and is now in prison.

A Nazi-Nzhdehist Armenian in today’s independent Republic of Armenia would be mortally offended by the last sentence, and seek concentration-camp-Revenge, instead of appreciating Grossman’s subtle complexity of ‘proving’ how just and fair a people Armenians constitute, by discriminating the good from the evil.

But let’s continue reading Grossman’s staggering narrative of Arutyun’s true story, a bit more, until it becomes unbearable;

Arutyun’s second son is the husband of the beautiful Astra. Eighteen months ago, he went to prison himself – after killing a truck driver in another drunken brawl, in Karapet-Aga’s restaurant. ….

…. Arutyun’s third son was recently released from a prison in Yerevan, and Arutyun was himself recently released from the district hospital – this third son had knifed him in the ribs during a quarrel. Arutyun was in the hospital for three months, and his son was in prison for three months – the father saved his son from a worse fate by giving false testimony. …

What a family! The fruits of genocide – If you’re not at the end of your tether yet, here is more;

I have heard that Arutyun’s fourth son, the wildest one of all {Ouch! what a Grossman! Can anything be wilder than what has been characterized hitherto? – Prof HIP} left Armenia three years ago; he was one of the young people who answered the call for volunteers to settle the virgin lands of Siberia. Away he went – and no one has heard from him since. No one has seen him, nobody knows how to find him or even if he is still alive.

Aurtyun’s fifth son, though mentally retarded, is the least unsatisfactory. .. he smiles affectionately and slobbers as he shows me a picture book – a book of Armenian tales about animals. The animals in the pictures all look Eastern; they have dark hair and Armenian faces. … Yes, now I understand why old Arutyun’s eyes …… his insomnia, his hunched back – why everything about him expresses such a vast sorrow. (Ch. 6)

Very Funny

After the infinite tragedies above, it remains to note Grossman’s hilarious humour. I have never read anything funnier than his description of Stalin’s titanic statue (which is no more) in Yerevan, Armenia’s five thousand years old capital city. More than its anti-Soviet denouncement, what fascinates me is (as in everything else) Grossman’s intellectual skill to transcend the mundane and image the profoundly hidden depths of the human predicament, in this case the male chauvinist pig’s desire to equal God – they all tried it, beginning with Satan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, the Roman and Chinese emperors, their ridiculous British imitators (including Churchill), Hitler, Stalin, and now the American Presidents and their British poodles genociding in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria …..

On a hill above Yerevan stands a statue of Stalin. No matter where you are in the city, you can clearly see the titanic bronze marshal. …. He strides along, and his stride is slow, smooth, and weighty. It is the stride of a master, a ruler of the world; he is in no hurry. ….

……… This monument towers over Yerevan and the whole of Armenia. It towers over Russia, over the Ukraine, over the Black and the Caspian seas, over the Arctic Ocean, over the forest of Eastern Siberia, over the sands of Kazakhstan. Stalin and the state are one and the same.

This monument was erected in 1951. Scientists, poets, distinguished shepherds, vanguard workers, students, schoolchildren, and Old Bolsheviks all gathered at the foot of the bronze giant. … Every head bowed before the master, the leader (Ch 2).

How I would love to hear these jokes (the “distinguished shepherds”) retold by Britain’s stand-up comics, like Michael McIntyre…


Within this framework, I think the translators and Yuri Bit-Yunan are terribly mistaken in using hindsight and reading dark premonition of Grossman’s as yet un-diagnosed stomach cancer in his humorous tale about a sudden urge to empty his bowels. It may be the first such intimacy described in Russian letters, but it is no more than that, a common case of “Tourist-tummy” labelled differently in different cultures as a euphemism for the onset of Diarrhoea, nothing to do with a prophetic anticipation of a stomach cancer! An intellectual giant like Vasily Grossman needs no clay feet or false myths.

Where Grossman is totally evil is his despicable denigration of Hratchia Kotchar’s life-work. Inexplicably, Grossman disguises him as “Martirosyan”, and disgustingly refers to his “novel about a copper works” (Ch. 6), which it absolutely is not. I can’t accept it even as a piece of black humour. There is no way of knowing if Grossman understood the etymology of the false Armenian surname he has given Kotchar – Martiros is the Armenian of the Greek root meaning a “Martyr” (precisely the same in English too. Perhaps Grossman in bad conscience is self-flagellating for abusing Kotchar as a martyr).

Kotchar’s massive novel (even longer than Tolstoy’s War & Peace) is about the War (not “copper works”) titled Meds Dan Zavagnere(h) (= The Children of the Great Household – translated erroneously as The Children of the Large House). The Armenian root doun (nominative form, dan is the dative declension) means ambiguously (precisely as in classical Greek) House-as-property, and household as an aristocratic abstraction – Kotchar referring ironically but not anti-Sovietically to the Soviet Union as a household of noble families of nations, which was the social structure of the Medieval Kingdoms of Cilician Armenia, each aristocratic household holding a specific duty and responsibility in sustaining and securing the survival of the nation as a federative union of ancient ancestry – the Mamikonians (my own family ancestry on my father’s side), for example, had the specific duty of procuring armies and armaments for the military defence of the whole geographical region in Anatolia.

Grossman reduces this kind of complexity into … “cobalt works”! Shame on him – it is very clear to me that Grossman is a slave of the green-eyed monster … suffers mortally from uncontrollable jealousy, trying to steal Kotchar’s crown of being the Soviet Tolstoy. Kotchar was already well-established throughout the Soviet Union, already in receipt of critical “Tolstoyan” accolades Grossman was desperately aspiring to.

Kotchar the Great

I myself knew Hratchia Kotchar well. As a teenager of 16, I had published a critical analysis of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in a literary magazine in Beirut, Lebanon. The Soviets were keen on opening up to the West trying to tear down the Churchill-erected Iron Curtain, which Churchill had plagiarized from Hitler’s Propaganda Minister (of Lies) Joseph Goebbels. The Soviets used the Diaspora Armenians to do so, knowing full well that the Armenian political Dashnak Party was fascist and agents of the American anti-communist forces – William Casey, a director of the CIA, at a congressional hearing, had confirmed that the Dashnak party was on its payroll throughout the 1950’s. But the majority of the Armenian communities throughout the world formed a patriotic front against the Dashnak, acknowledging the Soviet umbrella of security for Armenia’s survival, without any approval of the regime’s murderous madness.

One of the greatest historical puzzles of the times was Stalin’s call to the Armenian Diaspora to immigrate to Soviet Armenia … and when they did so, Stalin sent them to the Gulag. The children of my own paternal uncle were all dispatched there. When some survived and returned, a daughter would leave her kitchen tap on 24/7 … when once on a rare visit I turned it off, she was annoyed with me, and turned it back on explaining that it was the only way she knew to reek some Revenge on the KGB. The irony was that she had also just told me how her Dad, my father’s older brother Mihran Pilikian, had won a reputation in the region as a folk-doctor. Stalin’s henchmen had sent an aeroplane to Yerevan to carry her Dad to Moscow to cure Stalin’s mysterious illness. Thank god Stalin had died before my uncle could get there. Rumour had it that Mihran had discovered the cure for cancer, but he had determined to divulge it only to me, the youngest of the clan – this was a very ancient Armenian custom, revealing significant secrets exclusively to the youngest child of the clan. Unfortunately, I did not make it to Yerevan before his demise, and thus my uncle Mihran had taken his secret with him to the grave…

Hratchia Kotchar was no less than an Ambassador of Soviet Armenia, on a friendly mission to Beirut (Lebanon) then regarded as the vibrant capital city of the global Armenian Diaspora. The Turkish governments were deeply concerned, enough to lay long-term secret CIA-plans to destroy the intensely active Lebanese Armenian community – one of the complex causal factors of the horrendous civil-war in the Lebanon (1975-90).

Kotchar had read my article and overwhelmed by my critical appraisal advocating a Soviet re-appraisal of Dostoyevsky, who was then a taboo subject with them, especially the Crime & Punishment. Kotchar was determined to carry a copy back with him to Yerevan for the elucidation of the intellectual … nomenclatura (a Brezhnev-period coinage), and puzzlingly for me, also to show it to our Catholicos Vazken I. Only by reading Grossman’s book, I found out that our Catholicos then was a Dostoyevsky fan!!!

Hratchia Kotchar became my family’s … ambassador in Yerevan (my family was prominent in Beirut. My eldest sister, Marie Sarian was the first woman scientist in the Lebanon graduated from the American University of Beirut – she ran her own Pharmacie Pilikian over three decades before settling in Toronto, Canada, where she now lives with her family). Kotchar was an eminent, prominent, elegant, highly cultured, civilized, truly compassionate, helpful of others, and a … humble man, never arrogant, never toffee-nosed, never rude, never bad-mouthing others, never, never!

Grossman is totally unfair and evil about him. I have absolutely no doubt that Kotchar on the other hand, would have done absolutely anything and everything to have rendered Grossman’s life in Armenia a happy one. In actual fact, Grossman could have been a twin brother to Kotchar, even physically alike, were it not for Grossman’s compulsive obsessive professional envy, Cain-like deliberately misrepresenting Kotchar as an ultra-nationalist. Kotchar was a patriot, but never a nationalist, let alone an ultra one.

Lying About Himself Too

And when I discovered in the scholarly notes by Yuri Bit Yunan, that Grossman had lied about his own flesh-and-blood, fantasizing horrendous things about his own family … I thought Grossman had gone mad – perhaps the developing stomach cancer (like the final stage of VD) causes phantasmagoria, hallucinatory brain dysfunction. I felt sad and sorry for Grossman – especially in view of a lifetime witnessing the unimaginable horrors of the Second World War. The wonder is that he could keep himself as sane as he was. I forgave him all.

I think he can and must be forgiven, because in spite of it all, Grossman’s An Armenian Sketchbook is such a unique masterpiece, a subtle amalgam of good and evil on a biblical scale, precisely like the Old Testament and all other great works, so simple and yet Oh so very complex, about nothing and everything, about stones … and man’s inhumanity to man, wise and yet Oh so very foolish, a psycho-socio history of being and feeling like an Armenian, and everybody else of non-Armenians, an existential survival narrative of being merely a sheer human being … an incredible, miracle of a book, nay, a treatise? Perhaps an Essay – an extended philosophical Cartesian cogitation about the nature of things… Humans? Perhaps God?

The End


Photo: Vasily Grossman,



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