“At 7:15 on August 6th, the Arabkir police station in Yerevan received an anonymous emergency call stating that Marcos Grigorian (born 1924) had been physically beaten at the house located at 57 Zarubyan Street. The investigative unit dispatched to the location discovered that at 4:20 on the same day two masked individuals had gained entry into the house by breaking through the metal railings of the door and afterwards proceeded to beat Marcos Grigorian about the head with a blunt instrument. They fled the scene after absconding with $200 and 60,000 Armenian drams. Marcos Grigorian was subsequently taken to hospital.”
This is the police report that appeared in the newspaper “Azg” several days after the incident.
The Arabkir police initiated criminal proceedings regarding the incident, categorizing it as a robbery based on specifications cited in Section 3 of Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia. In such robbery cases, where large amounts are burgled, sentences range from 8 - 15 years imprisonment, with or without property confiscation.
The 83 year-old American-Armenian was a painter, art collector, founder of the Near East Museum in Armenia and an Honorary Citizen of both Yerevan and Garni. Marcos Grigorian, a citizen of the United States, died on August 27th, three weeks after being attacked. On September 1st his remains were interred at the Pantheon Cemetery in Yerevan.
One Possible Motive Was the Sale of the Summer Residence in Garni
Marcos Grigorian was born in the Russian city of Krobodk. At an early age the family moved to Iran where Grigorian established himself as an artist.
“Marcos Grigorian is one of the pioneers of art in Iran. He placed Iranian art on the world stage. In the 1960’s he moved to the United States and then to Armenia in the 1990’s. Marcos purchased homes here. In his home in Garni, Marcos found a spot where he could commune with the thousand year-old history and nature of Armenia. The house in Garni became an international meeting place for artists and intellectuals from Armenia and the world-over, recounts Nazaret Karoyan, President of the National Arts Critics Association. One could say that the design of the house there underscored the importance of having such a place where it would be possible to communicate with others while at the same time being alone with one’s inner self. In other words, being open to the world at large by isolating oneself; communing with the world from the midst of isolation.”
Journalist and painter Shake Apetrosyan, an acquaintance of the painter for some 30 years recounts that, “Both Marcos and his friends believed the real reason for the attack revolved around the sale of the summer house in Garni. While he was hospitalized I read a letter to him that had been written by a certain Zohrab Demirchian, a potential buyer of the Garni house. This person had purchased the two adjoining lots and now wanted to purchase the house as well. Marcos agreed and had already received a $5,000 down payment on the sale. The parties had agreed that the balance was to be transferred to Marcos’ bank account within two months. Demirchian had bought the two other properties with cash. Most likely word spread in the village that he had given a cash sum to Marcos as well. It was thus believed that Marcos was in the possession of a large amount of cash.”
“It was only a close circle of people in both Garni and Yerevan that knew about the sale of the house. These acquaintances knew that on the evening in question Marcos would be attending the wedding of the son of a friend, something the townsfolk of Garni weren’t aware of. The perpetrators chose that very day after being informed that Marcos wouldn’t be at home till very late that night and that they could take their time breaking through the metal-reinforced door.” Zara Mokatsyan, Director of the Near East Museum is convinced, “that Sunday wasn’t picked at random.” The behavior of the perpetrators also amazes her. “ Taking into account the risks they took, the assailants left without any money at all, if you don’t include the pittance found in the wallet. Not getting anything from Marcos they loosened his bindings and left the scene in high spirits. Marcos watched them sit down and eat the cake that was in the house, all the while laughing and not once cursing the fact that they were left empty-handed.”
Both Marcos Grigorian and his intimate friends had their suspicions regarding certain residents of Garni. The painter also had doubts regarding certain of his acquaintances in Yerevan as well, as evidenced by the fact that the residents of Garni weren’t aware of his impending absence from the home due to the wedding. “After the incident I joked to him that the perpetrators didn’t come with the intention to kill him and that it would have been easy to do so if that had been their wish. Marcos said that he didn’t feel safe in the hospital. He complained that there was no security at the “Nairi” Health Center. Apetrosyan adds that, over the years they really made his life miserable in Garni. In the beginning they’d litter the doorway, break his windows and curse him...”
Two years before the assault, Marcos' home in Garni was broken into and burgled. The robbers took a pair of binoculars and two inexpensive carpets. During their investigation the police beat-up Zorik, the father of the family entrusted with keeping watch on the summer-home, demanding that he confess to the robbery. Soon afterwards Zorik, along with his wife Gohar, left the job. At the initiative of Marcos the matter was put to rest. Given the sudden change in cordial relations between Marcos and Zorik’s family one is prompted to surmise that a third party was involved in the matter, someone for whom such a precipitous break in relations would be advantageous. We should add that after Marcos' death Zorik was again beaten with the same objective in mind. His wife Gohar says his lungs are once again filled with water.
Based on the assurances of one of the painter’s friends, Zohrab Demirchian had until September 30th to finalize payment for the house but that he visited Marcos in the hospital on August 26th, one day before his death, requesting a one-month extension. This infuriated Marcos. During their conversation, Zohrab also alluded to the successful completion of the transaction after the possible death of Marcos. The latter then signed a power of attorney entrusting the sale of the house and the adjoining property after his death to Mrs. Nelly who had been taking care of him. Jumping ahead let us note that on August 27th in Garni, just hours after the passing of Marcos, Mrs. Nelly and Zohrab Demirchian finalized the transaction. The sale price was $120,000.
He Never Once Thought About Dying
Nazaret Karoyan believes that Marcos Grigorian, “rather than despairing over his hardships saw a ray of hope being born from them. For the last time, unfortunately, I had the chance to speak with him for about a half an hour in the hospital. He told me, there is good in all evil. In other words, perhaps this incident would make people reflect more on the adversities he faced and to help finding a permanent home for his collection in the Near East Museum.”
“After the assault his entire left-side was in constant pain. The wounds to his mouth and head had somewhat healed but the pain intensified. He said that while his other wounds would heal, the wound to his heart would never be consoled. Shake Apetrosyan notes that, Marcos Grigorian thus never found a home for his art collection which for the past 15 years was temporarily stored at the Literature and Art Museum.”
Zara Mokatsyan also notes that Marcos Grigorian was in good spirits in the hospital and that he was making plans for next April. She recounts that one day, after his wounds had healed he told her that, “I haven’t any strength left.” This sudden change in the space of a day came as a total shock to the museum director.
After leaving the hospital, Marcos took up solitary residence in Nor-Nork with the help of one of his friends. Only five people, including Zara Mokatsyan and of course Mrs. Nelly, his caretaker, knew the location of his new domicile. According to Mokatsyan, it was only early on that the painter feared returning to his home on Zarubyan Street. Afterwards, the matter of repairing the place became an issue to be addressed.
Marcos had made plans for the repair of the Zarubyan home along with Michel, his sister’s son, who was living in New York at the time. A telephone conversation between the two that took place at 9:00 am on August 27th was suddenly interrupted. From his end Michel could hear the sound of breaking objects and then the line goes dead. Michel telephones Mrs. Nelly, his uncle’s caretaker, to find out what had happened. Nelly isn’t able to get through to Marcos. However, the caretaker, who lives in the Yerevan city center, doesn’t bother to visit Marcos. Acquaintances are forced to call the police who find Marcos slumped on the floor in Zhanet Ghazaryan’s apartment in Nor-Nork. The conclusion of the medical examiner is that Marcos had suffered a massive heart attack and that he fell to the floor and died several hours later.
We telephoned Mrs. Nelly and attempted to get some information from her regarding the death of Marcos and the last few days of his life. She told us that she had lost her voice and that her doctor instructed her not to speak more than ten words. As she spoke to us we knew that in fact that her vocal faculties were quite normal.
Nazaret Karoyan says that, “I am certain that the assault had a powerful psychological affect on Marcos' well-being and that this ultimately lead to his death. He wanted to transfer his other works to Armenia as well. I planned to organize one final grand exhibition in Paris and then bring it all here. It didn’t work out that way.”
Shake Apetrosyan recounts that, “After leaving the hospital Marcos penned an ‘open letter’ that he later decided to deliver to the Prime Minister instead of publishing. The Prime Minister was out of the country that day the letter was delivered. We here told that he’d return in a few days. Marcos passed away in the interim. He expressed a desire to organize a genocide exhibit at the Cafesjian Foundation. He never once thought about dying.
Michel was ready to have his uncle’s body flown to New York to be interred at the Grigorian family plot had the Armenian government not organized a state funeral in his honor. However, an intra-departmental committee created at the behest of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs formalized the funeral arrangements for this noteworthy American-Armenian painter. This was little consolation to the relatives of this artist and collector who so often pounded away at the doors of the same Ministry to no real effect.
The Preliminary Investigation Continues
In response to a letter from “Hetq” the Police Department of the Republic of Armenia stated the following, “ The preliminary investigation of the criminal case regarding the robbery assault perpetrated upon Marcos Grigorian is continuing apace. After the incident in question, M. Grigorian was unable to describe his assailants due to his poor health. He could only inform us that they wore masks that covered their faces down to their mouths and that the masks had circular slits for the eyes. He also said they spoke in a Yerevan dialect but that they didn’t use first names when addressing one another. As yet we have no potential suspects nor have we made any arrests. All essential operational investigative procedures are continuing in order to reveal the facts regarding this criminal offence and its perpetrators.”
P.S. - Marcos Grigorian doesn’t have many relatives in Armenia, only the children of his mother’s sister. His closest relatives, his brother’s two sons and one daughter, as well as Michel, his sister’s son, live in the United States. The estate of the painter will be distributed amongst these closest family members since no written will by Marcos has yet been found.