BEYOND the Uniform

soldiers with sunglasses in front of Mother Armenia statue in Armenia

The young soldiers of the Artsakh War have bravely earned their hero badges - but these young men are so much more.

Yeghishe Charents and William Saroyan are among the many pillars of Armenian culture, and guards of our challenged identity and traditions, who once were soldiers wearing combat uniforms—risking their lives for the greater good.  The men defending our borders today are no different. 

As we commemorate Republic Day (May 28th) and honor our soldiers for their heroism, it is equally crucial to look beyond the uniform—and see these young men as unique individuals and purveyors of our culture. They are filmmakers, photographers, artists, musicians, chefs. These bright minds have ambitions and aspirations of their own that extend beyond the battlefield and aid the future of Armenia and Armenians in an equally impactful way.

Arnold Ghazaryan, Harut Khachatryan and Tigran Ghazaryan served during the 44-day war. They’re bound by an experience that has irrevocably changed every Armenian’s perception of identity, unity, and perseverance but are blessed to be back to move in the direction of their future. They’re creatives with a passion for innovation and a love for their homeland that manifests itself in distinct ways. 

Arnold, a young filmmaker from Artsakh, fell in love with cinematography at the age of 13 when director Jivan Avetisyan shot his movie The Last Inhabitant (Վերջին Բնակիչը) at his village in Askeran. As an assistant on set, he quickly realized his calling and has spent every day since working towards making his dreams come true.

Upon moving to Yerevan at the age of 17, to attend Yerevan State Institute of Theater and Cinematography, he was called in to complete his two-year mandatory service in the Armenian army. He had completed ¾ of his service when the 44-day war broke out. Returning to Yerevan as an injured soldier, Arnold wasted no time getting back to working in film. 

“I understood by this point that my most effective weapon was my camera,” says Arnold.

Today, he is a co-founder of The Future’s Calling—helping and working on film sets every chance he gets. “I want to shoot films that will not only be seen by Armenians but resonate and be appreciated by film lovers everywhere,” he says. “I want to create something so incredible that even when the so-called enemy watches it, they too will undoubtedly proclaim ‘this is a great film.’ ”

With an unwavering faith in his generation of filmmakers from Armenia and Artsakh, he has big dreams—including winning, at a minimum, one Academy Award.

Harut’s grandfather introduced him to the tonir (tandoor)—a cylindrical clay oven traditionally used by Armenians for cooking and baking—when he was very young. He got familiar with the smoky, woody taste and aroma of the dishes coming out of the tonir and gradually started learning how to prepare dishes in it himself. His passion for cooking grew while he was completing his service in the army. 

“After wrapping up our military duties, we would gather by the bonfire and I would gladly make something for my fellow soldiers,” recalls Harut. 

Now, a full-time student at the Yeremyan Academy, Harut is combining his passion, skills, and entrepreneurial ambitions to create an innovative farm-to-table food experience in Armenia. He hopes to build a space surrounded by nature, where people could gather with good company and taste fresh and organic cuisine created with ingredients sourced from his garden. His unique restaurant concept has already received praise,  some funding and is in the early stages of coming to life.

“It is crucial to find ways to financially and morally support Armenia’s creatives,” says Harut. “If we work hard to reignite a sense of hope and trust in the hearts of the soldiers and veterans who have given up on their homeland, we can achieve amazing things.”

Tigran admits to having a more technical way of thinking. Hence why, for college, he attended YSU Faculty of Radiophysics and studied in the department of Microelectronics and Semiconductor Physics. However, it took one camera purchased during his undergrad to fascinate him with the world of photography and change the course of his life. 

After graduating with a Master’s degree, Tigran had to complete his mandatory service in the army. He chose to follow the three-year service program to allow him enough time on the side to pursue photography and retouching. 

“It was during my first year in the army that I was able to publish my work as a retoucher for Harper’s Bazaar,” recalls Tigran.

Tigran’s work has expanded—and even includes retouching for POMMIE, along with his goals of opening his own studio and working with world-class brands across the globe. He too believes in the capabilities and talents of Armenia’s creatives, so long as they are not limiting themselves and their worldviews. 

“We should be competitive not only with our neighbors, but with our internationally qualified peers,” says Tigran. “It’s important to keep up with trends and specialists from all over the world, put ourselves out there, and encourage those around us to do the same.”

When all is said and done, we live on through music, art, literature, and other creative mediums that stand the test of time and resonate with generations not even yet born. As the world begins to connect with our culture, more often and more sincerely, only then will we not need to justify why we matter to the world during dire and trying times. 

As a nation, we are indebted to these brave young men who have sacrificed so much to protect the homeland. And with the same vigor that we lend a helping hand to the families of martyred or woundedwe should be committed to champion these ambitions.

If we don’t support these soldiers and others within their generation, to pursue their passions and make it in Armenia, we stand to lose some of the brightest minds of our youth and the wealth of opportunities that could come from them realizing their dreams. 

If they succeed, we all succeed.

Let’s create. Let’s support. Let’s win with culture.


Words by Rebecca Taghdweirnian and Gohar Khojabagyan

Photography by Georgie Alexanian

"I loved working on this project. I chose to shoot on film to capture and showcase the raw, unedited authenticity of the soldiers."

“It is crucial to find ways to financially and morally support Armenia’s creatives. If we work hard to reignite a sense of hope and trust in the hearts of the soldiers and veterans who have given up on their homeland, we can achieve amazing things.”

— Harut Khachatryan, soldier and chef

Soldiers: Arnold Ghazaryan, Harut Khachatryan, Tigran Ghazaryan, Narek Brutyan, Arsen Hovhannisyan, Gegham Kirakosyan, Gor Sirunyan, Andranik Simikyan, Edgar Kaloyan, and Arshak Vardanov