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Karabakh Soldier

When American actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in Monaco in 1956 there was a lot of media covering the wedding. A quarter century later, at the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles in London there were throngs of press clamoring for photos. And in 2014, the media hullabaloo to get to the marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in Italy reached a feverish pitch.

But, all those weddings – and likely every other wedding in history – can’t compare to the percentage of media present at the October 24, 2020 wedding of Mariam, 25, and Hovik, 25, in Shushi, Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).

Accompanying the couple were two friends plus the priest. Surrounding them were 60 members of the press from at least nine countries.

Accompanying the couple were two friends plus the priest. Surrounding them were 60 members of the press from at least nine countries. That works out to 92% of those in attendance were media, a record unlikely to be ever broken.

Sometime before war broke out on September 27, when Azerbaijani forces assaulted the Armenian autonomous region known as both Nagorno Karabakh and Artsakh, Hovik and Mariam, his high school sweetheart from Martuni, set October 24 as their wedding day.

When the bombs started falling, Mariam’s family fled to Yerevan, for safety, but she stayed behind in Stepanakert. Hovik was rushed to the front with his army unit.

Fighting was fierce and he lost many friends. As they lay dying, Hovik thought of his wedding and the Armenian tradition that a soldier should replace his fallen comrades with children of his own. He was determined not to delay his marriage. To top it off, it is considered bad luck to postpone a wedding.

So, the plans held. Hovik received permission from his military superiors to have a two-day leave to get married in Shushi at the St. Ghazanchetsots church on the anointed day. Then, on October 8, the church was severely damaged by Azerbaijani air attacks. The church was attacked twice.

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But the wedding was bound and determined to happen. Hovik and Mariam had planned to keep it quiet. It would only be them and two friends - the best man and maid of honor. But, as Armenians are apt to do, somebody spilled the beans and word reached the press center in Stepanakert.

The word was out. A soldier got to leave the battlefield to marry his sweetheart in a bombed-out church. Talk about a fairytale wedding.

Today the wedding happened under a beautiful blue sky and with no air raid sirens wailing.

Miriam, dressed, or course, in a traditional white dress appeared from the sidewalk and started walking toward the church. She was surrounded by cameramen and reporters, many wearing helmets, a few wearing Covid masks. Halfway to the entrance to Sourp Ghazanchetsots, Hovik, wearing non-traditional wedding outfit of army fatigues, greeted her. The two kissed quickly and led the throngs inside.

With a eight-meter wide hole in the ceiling, and a enormous pile of rubble on the church floor, they were married in a brief, solemn ceremony surrounded by the mob of press.

Outside, the couple released to white doves and gave some brief interviews.

“My parents were married in war time,” Miriam said. “I strongly believe and hope we will be the last generation married in wartime. And I know Hovik will return to me.”

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The two got into a white Honda Civic and took off. Hovik has to return to the front tomorrow. Tonight is the night.

Michael Krikorian
Krikorian Writes