Edmond Y. Azadian

It is with great sorrow that the Center for Armenian Studies, U-M, learns of the passing of Edmond Y. Azadian on March 25, 2023. Azadian was a respected author, political leader, and staunch advocate of the Armenian community. Besides his international renowned, Edmond Azadian was instrumental in establishing the Armenian Studies Program at the University of Michigan. He remained a staunch supporter of the Center throughout his life as former director and founder of the program, Ronald G. Suny remembers. On behalf of the Center for Armenian Studies and the Ann Arbor Armenian community, we express the deepest condolences to the Azadian and Manoogian families for their loss.

Remembering Edmond Yevant Azadian (1935-2023)

Edmond Azadian, Front Row Second From Left at 2019 Armenian Studies Workshop: Generations and Legacies: Louise Manoogian Simone’s Vision for Armenian Studies.

Every once and a while you meet someone who changes your life. My first meeting with Edmond Azadian, whom we always called Mr. Azadian, was such a meeting. He was the secretary to the philanthropist Alex Manoogian, and I was a young professor at Oberlin College in northern Ohio. I had been asked to drive up to Detroit to meet Azadian and Manoogian because the “old man,” as we often referred to Mr. Manoogian, was considering making a gift to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to establish a position in Armenian history. I had been suggested as a possible candidate by a friend and colleague and was ready for a move from the small college where I had taught for more than a decade (and, incidentally, where I met my wife, the pianist Armena Marderosian) to a major research university. But was I the right person for this job? Afterall, I was more a Russian history, a Soviet historian, than an Armenian historian.

I don’t know if Mr. Azadian was impressed by me at our first meeting, but he impressed me immediately as a serious intellectual, a no-nonsense man of letters, a political activist, and a major influence on Mr. Manoogian. The “old man” was very cautious about making the necessary endowment to the university. He was not sure if this was a wise investment, but Edmond was committed to the promise of serious historical scholarship. And he had a powerful ally in an alumna of the university, Mrs. Alice Haidostian. Those two formidable figures were able to convince Mr. Manoogian that a chair in modern Armenian history would pay off in a new generation of young Armenians learning about their heritage.

Edmond took his job seriously. He read my first book, which was a study of the city of Baku during the Russian Revolution. He shrewdly told me, “You are more interested in the workers and the revolutionaries than you are in the Armenians!” He was right. But he also saw the quality of the work, and he advocated for the university chair and for me as a leading candidate. In many ways he was responsible for the Armenian historian that I became.

It took several more years before Mr. Manoogian gave the gift to U-M that established the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History. Armena and I moved to Ann Arbor, and I learned Armenian history as I taught over the next decades. Edmond was there as a mentor and a supporter. His knowledge of Armenian history, culture, and literature was unparalleled. He supplied me with books and was clear and frank with his opinions. We did not always agree. Few intellectuals do. But he was always interested, respectful, and tolerant. He was someone you could trust and from whom you could learn.

I often referred to Edmond as Mr. Manoogian’s Minister of Culture. And I still think that is an apt title. He was a unique figure in a unique position. He was an Armenian writer in the Armenian language in America, equally fluent in his native language and the language of his adopted country. He was an activist, a political leader of the Ramgavar Party, and he was boundlessly committed to Armenia. He traveled tirelessly to Armenia and helped that small country stand on its feet as it became an independent state. Edmond contributed to the literature of Armenia, and his books are steppingstones on which one can tread to learn about its culture.

A nation does not just appear by magic. Neither is it a product of nature. Nations are made by people who desire to have and create a nation. A nation is made by its poets, its activists, its politicians, by its revolutionaries and statesmen and women, who sacrifice their lives and work for it. Edmond Yervant Azadian was such a nation-maker. Without such people there could not be an Armenia.

Ronald Grigor Suny
William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science
The University of Michigan
April 13, 2023