Ruben Dishdishyan

If you live in Russia, you are bound to have seen the image of a majestic airship sliding against the backdrop of Mount Ararat – unless you don’t go to the movies and don’t own a television. This animation is the title sequence of all the movies produced or released for film or TV distribution by Central Partnership, the company founded by Ruben Dishdishyan.
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If you live in Russia, you are bound to have seen the image of a majestic airship sliding against the backdrop of Mount Ararat – unless you don’t go to the movies and don’t own a television. This animation is the title sequence of all films produced or released for theater and TV distribution by Central Partnership, the company founded by Ruben Dishdishyan.
“Shadowboxing,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “I’m staying,” well-loved TV shows “Apostle,” “Black Cats,” “Liquidation” — altogether, Ruben has produced over 150 movies and TV shows. One of the latest to be released is director Fatih Akin’s “The Cut,” a film about the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The movie was produced by Ruben’s new motion picture company, Mars Media Entertainment.
In 2005 Ruben was named one of the five most promising Russian film producers by Forbes Russia magazine, while GQ Russia named him “Producer of the Year” in 2010. He is also a knight of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) and holds the Armenian medal of Moses of Khoren. In 2010, Ruben published a book of his grandfather Hovakim’s memoirs, “Down the Euphrates on Rafts,” in Russian and Armenian. 

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Hovakim Dishdishyan was born in 1903 in a small town of Zile in Central Anatolia. As a 12-year-old boy, he survived the massacres but endured a many-months-long trek through the desert and a terrible existence in the Turkish concentration camp at Deir ez-Zor. He later described all of those horrifying events exceptionally frankly: “The Great Catastrophe of 1915 fell upon us with a crash. In one night, they rounded up all of our town’s men 12 years and older. They were put in the local prison and each night [the Turks] would take a group, bring them to the gorge north of the town, and turn them over to the headsmen who axed them,” Hovakim wrote. Those who survived were sent to the concentration camp. 
“For four months, I was with the women and children, naked, barefoot and starved. I suffered indescribable misery on the roads of deportation, roads that were covered with bloated and rotting corpses of my compatriots. I had lost my friends and relatives,” Hovakim says in his book. “Of the more than 15,000 who were gathered from two towns and deported, only 400 people remained in our caravan. Of the 44 members of our family, only my sister and myself were left.” 
Hovakim survived, despite his dire circumstances. 
When his caravan made a stop at Ain Ghazal, an Arab stole Hovakim and his sister from the Turks and took them to his home. 
“I had a rather close connection with the Arab trader. He pledged to arrange a family for us. Once, he came in with a tall man called Dawud, who was promised that he could adopt me. Dawud had four daughters and needed a boy, and he didn’t want to take another girl. When it got dark, I kissed my sister and, after leaving the encampment, went to the mill where Dawud was waiting for me on his horse. He put me on the horse and, without saying a word, he rode toward Sinjar and his village. That was how I parted ways with the last of my family,” wrote Hovakim. 
At the time, Hovakim was still but a child: “I loved my sister so much, probably because she was under my constant care for more than eight months after our mother’s death. We’d been together through all the circles of hell; we’d been witnesses to the daily extermination of hundreds of thousands of Armenians; we’d looked death in the eye on numerous occasions. Our joint resistance to the miseries and atrocities of that period had bound us tighter than our family ties could.”
Hovakim lived the rest of his life with a deep wound resulting from that unbearable separation, and he could never forgive himself for his own survival: “I had thought long and hard about our separation, which wasn’t at all forced. I had gone through thousands of arguments, trying to come to some sort of conclusion that would give me solace in the loss that turned out to be the most rueful for me. Time goes by, but my pain is as sharp as ever,” he wrote. 
Despite the painful memory, Hovakim Dishdishyan felt nothing but gratitude toward the family who took him in and saved him. 
Those people did everything possible to help him forget the past: “After inhuman hardships and grave suffering, I found myself in a family that surrounded me with affection. I was well provided for and gradually overcame my infirmity, getting stronger and coming back to life. I was a fully legitimate son to them.”
Hovakim lived with the Arab family for three years. In 1919, after the end of World War I, he returned to his native Armenian environment. He spent several years in orphanages in Aleppo, Constantinople and Thessaloniki, studying a lot. In 1924, Dishdishyan repatriated to Armenia, where he graduated with a construction degree from the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute (now the State Engineering School of Armenia) and had a successful career and a family. 
Hovakim Dishdishyan held key positions and made significant contributions to the development of Armenia’s capital. 
Hovakim was writing his book when the construction of the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide memorial was completed: “He took me there. We walked on foot from our house to the memorial itself and he told me: ‘I’m writing a book about this, you will soon read it’,” says Ruben. “Down the Euphrates on Rafts” is a one-of-a-kind book, a detailed and emotional testimony of one who survived massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey and lived to tell about it. 
Being scattered around the world is both a strength and a weakness for the Armenian people. Although Ruben Dishdishyan calls himself “half-Armenian,” he loves his ancestral lands with all his heart. He is reverent in his attitude toward Armenia, its history and its people: “I tried to introduce the Russian audience to the Armenian people and their culture to the best of my abilities. For many years, we’ve been watching Armenian actors working in Russia and, whenever possible, tried to enlist them in our films,” he admits. 
“It’s important to preserve what makes you unique: your language, your culture, the way your ancestral land draws you in. We need a certain force to coordinate the actions of Armenian diasporas and communities,” Ruben says. “I feel as if I am an Armenian-born Russian. I love Armenia very much. I go there three or four times a year, and each trip is like a breath of fresh air. This is where my closest family is — my parents, my sister, my nieces.”
But the stronger the family ties, the more painful the losses. 
“Father used to tell us that grandfather Hovakim spent his whole life looking for his sister. He wrote letters and tried to get in contact with American and international organizations to inquire about her. Back then, it could have affected his career rather badly,” Ruben explains.
Hovakim Dishdishyan died in Yerevan in 1973. He was unable to find his sister, but his grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue searching and hope for a miracle. Ruben is not one to give up: “We translated my grandfather’s book into English and we are trying to publish it, hoping it will bring us some new information.” His grandson does Hovakim proud.
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team.
Russian film producer brings Armenia to the screen
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Grigory Mkrtchyan
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