In 1969, the Armenian-Canadian sculptor Arto Tchakmakchian appeared in Mikhail Vartanov‘s suppressed documentary The Color of Armenian Land. While it was well known that the appearance in this film of nonconformists Sergei Parajanov (who was imprisoned in 1973) and Minas Avetisyan (who was assassinated in 1975) caused the film to be shelved and Vartanov to be blacklisted, we have just learned that Arto Tchakmakchian was also persecuted by KGB. In a 2010 video interview to Armenian TV, Tchakmakchian says that KGB destroyed his statue of the great Armenian composer Komitas (whose voice incidentally opens Vartanov’s film) and dumped the remains in front of Tchakmakchian’s studio. Tchakmakchian had to hire a bulldozer and level the remains “in order to be able to sleep at night.” It’s noteworthy (but in retrospect not surprising) that this incident occurred around 1974, about the same time as the peak of the persecution of Parajanov, Vartanov and Minas (perhaps it was one of the reasons Tchakmakchian escaped from the Soviet Union to Canada).
Arto Tchakmakchian (Արտո Չաքմաքչյան, Арто Чакмакчян) was born on June 26, 1933 in Egypt and came to the Soviet Armenia as a teenager with his parents. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and his work has been exhibited at the State Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow and the Louvre in Paris.