Vahan Cardashian, Founder of first Armenian-American lobby

Vahan Cardashian, Founder of first Armenian-American lobby

“Force alone can achieve independence, but it alone cannot keep it. Sound leadership, good diplomacy and economic independence, plus force, retain political independence.”  

Who he was

Vahan Cardashian worked tirelessly in the United States for the cause of Armenian independence. He single-handedly lobbied the United States for the creation of an independent Armenian state. 

Born in Caeasarea (modern-day Kayseri) in 1883, Cardashian moved to the United States and married an American woman. He was subsequently admitted to the Yale Law School, where he began writing. After graduation, he started working at the Ottoman Embassy in Washington, DC, but soon got word that his mother and sister had been murdered during the Armenian Genocide. He used his position to secretly inform others about the violence, but the Ottoman ambassador found out and fired him.

Cardashian established the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA) and lobbied leaders in the United States to support Armenia’s independence. He amassed an impressive cadre of well-known and respected Americans to serve on ACIA’s board, which helped to elevate the issue within the upper echelons of America’s government. 

Even after the independence of Armenia in 1918, Cardashian continued his lobbying efforts, particularly to secure an American mandate over Armenia and Armenian provinces in the defunct Ottoman Empire. In his view, as well as others’, this would prevent Russian or Turkish aggression. Unfortunately, the United States delayed any decision on establishing a mandate and securing an enlarged Armenian territory as proposed by President Woodrow Wilson - what would become known as “Wilsonian Armenia.”

After the attacks by Mustafa Kemal and Turkish troops from the west and Soviet troops from the north, Armenia resigned itself to being a part of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Cardashian continued energetically lobbying for an independent Armenia until his last days. 

The ACIA set the groundwork for continued lobbying efforts by Armenian-Americans in the future. It is seen as the predecessor of the modern-day Armenian-American advocacy organization, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). 

Interesting fact

Cardashian spoke no English when he arrived in America, but through diligent study he was able to become fluent and eloquent in written and spoken English.

Learn more about him

Understanding Vahan Cardashian’s Legacy 

Vahan Cardashian - Hairenik