Following 100 Years of Armenian Nation’s Post-Genocide Survival and Revival, Focus to Expand from Identity to Advancement and Prosperity

Encouraged by the strength and support shown by Armenians worldwide during the Armenian Genocide centenary commemorations in 2015, and following two years of detailed analysis, consideration and preparation, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) announced today its plan to launch a bold program to transform and expand its mission.

Since its founding 110 years ago, this global institution has acted as the largest philanthropic entity to protect and preserve Armenian identity and heritage throughout the diaspora and has a presence in over 30 countries. Following the independence of Armenia in 1991, AGBU’s mission expanded with philanthropic initiatives in Armenia, including major cultural and educational programs. Aiming to reconstitute the Armenian nation, which was forcibly shattered and dispersed to form the current Armenian diaspora, AGBU’s transformation initiative will build on the organization’s successes across the diaspora and in Armenia to begin a new era for the organization and Armenians the world over.

The year 2015 marked the centenary of the tragic genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian nation. With the momentous genocide centenary commemorations throughout the year, Armenians across the world are leaving a painful century behind with dignity and supportive attention from the whole world. Bolstered by the heroic efforts of many institutions throughout the diaspora, Armenians succeeded in surviving, recovering and reviving, finding themselves now at a historic juncture.

A century after receiving a second chance at life, Armenians have committed “to remember and demand,” the official motto of the centenary commemorative events. They are also confronting what it means to “be alive” as a nation, evaluating how the memory of victims and the generosity of those who helped many survivors would be best served in the future.

Building on its illustrious legacy, AGBU has decided to boldly move forward to address the special challenges of the 21st century in order to ensure a sustainable future for the Armenian nation worldwide with the state of Armenia at its core. Specifically, AGBU will engage with initiatives aimed at enabling a prosperous future for Armenia while continuing to preserve and enrich the Armenian identity worldwide.

To achieve this ambitious goal, AGBU will (1) reenergize the Armenian diaspora with a new aspiration to reconstitute the widespread Armenian nation, (2) enlarge its scope to include economic development of the homeland in addition to its historic socio-cultural mission, (3) further professionalize its governance, structures and functioning, (4) significantly expand its access to resources through fundraising and partnerships, (5) enlarge and reinvigorate its global networks of volunteer members and affiliates, and (6) leverage synergies with other organizations in order to rapidly gain critical mass in program execution.

In pursuing these strategic goals, AGBU is returning to the original intentions of its founders in the early 20th century, which were forcibly altered by the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath.

As a first step in this process, AGBU is proud to announce the election of Ruben Vardanyan to its Central Board of Directors. Mr. Vardanyan is a highly successful Armenian-born entrepreneur, an internationally recognized expert in the economy of Russia and emerging markets, and an international philanthropist. Among his major business achievements is the prominent Troika Dialog investment bank in Russia, which Mr. Vardanyan built in the period 1991 to 2012, and sold to Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia.

In 2001, Mr. Vardanyan co-founded the Armenia 2020 national development think-tank project working together with AGBU board member, Dr. Noubar Afeyan. This led to the creation of the private-public partnership, the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, in 2007 and subsequently the IDeA Foundation. Founded in 2013 and operating out of Armenia, the IDeA Foundation is a 300-professional strong philanthropic organization that identifies, develops and implements socio-economic programs in Armenia. The foundation has successfully invested more than 300 million USD over the last years in prominent programs like the Tatev Revival program, the UWC Dilijan International School and the Dilijan Urban Renewal program. In 2015, together with co-founders Dr. Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation and Dr. Afeyan, Mr. Vardanyan launched the 100 Lives project and its accompanying global humanitarian award, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. This annual prize, which will be awarded for the first time in Yerevan on April 24, 2016, will donate one million USD towards courageous world citizens who have put their own lives in danger to save others facing tragedy. The Aurora Prize was established in 2015 on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide as an expression of gratitude to those who saved Armenian lives, and in order to bring the world’s attention to ongoing humanitarian injustice around the world as well as to recognize modern acts of heroism.

“As part of our new initiatives, I am particularly proud and excited to welcome Ruben Vardanyan to the Central Board of AGBU. Having known Ruben for over 20 years, I consider him a true role model of a successful Armenian through his many achievements and unwavering personal integrity. Through his work, Ruben demonstrates a combination of vision, passion and devotion towards the future of the Armenian nation. As a modern, entrepreneurial philanthropist he brings exciting innovative ideas and strong synergies through the IDeA Foundation, with whom AGBU has already been collaborating through the UWC Dilijan College. Finally, as a citizen of Russia, he helps us reach out to the important Armenian communities in Russia and Eastern Europe. We are very much looking forward to his contributions to our new strategic aspiration,” commented Berge Setrakian, President of the AGBU Central Board of Directors.

On this occasion, AGBU also announced its intention to initiate a broader set of collaborations with Armenia-based IDeA Foundation. Accordingly, Berge Setrakian and Vasken Yacoubian have been elected to the Board of Trustees of the IDeA Foundation, joining current board member Noubar Afeyan.

Ruben Vardanyan, founder of the IDeA Foundation, said: “I feel privileged and honored to join the AGBU Central Board. This institution has been one of the most significant drivers of the survival of Armenians in the last century through its sustained and fine work in service of the Armenian nation and its many communities across the world. AGBU is in a great position to influence future prosperity in the homeland and redefine what it is to be Armenian in the 21st century. I am deeply committed to contributing my energy, know-how, philanthropic capabilities and network to this fine institution. I also look forward to the budding collaboration between AGBU and the IDeA Foundation as well as to our planned steps towards creating a powerful force for the advancement of Armenians throughout the world.”

On the occasion of this announcement, Central Board member Noubar Afeyan commented: “Since joining the AGBU board over two years ago, I have had the pleasure to work closely with President Berge Setrakian and many members of the central board to expand the vision for AGBU’s future. We have worked closely with Ruben and his team at IDeA Foundation to develop a roadmap for AGBU 2.0. During this time, we have also forged a growing and successful strategic collaboration with the pioneering TUMO Centers initiative founded and led by long-time AGBU board member and philanthropist, Sam Simonian. With my longtime partner Ruben now joining the AGBU board, we all look forward to engaging in the next phase of transformation. Buoyed by the energy and strength Armenians showed during the centenary, we remain cognizant of the opportunities and challenges we will face.”

“This marks an exciting phase of advancement and partnership for AGBU,” commented Sam Simonian, Vice President of the AGBU Central Board. “I especially look forward to strengthening AGBU’s educational offerings by leveraging TUMO Centers, IDeA’s UWC Dilijan International School, American University of Armenia, and many other new initiatives,” he added.

Established in 1906, AGBU ( is the world's largest non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of some 400,000 Armenians around the world.