Washington, D.C. – Armenia’s second emissary and first ambassador to the United States, Rouben Shougarian, passed away unexpectedly. He succeeded Alexander Arzoumanian as Armenia’s envoy to Washington with the full designation of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
An original member of the Pan-Armenian Movement led by Levon Ter-Petrossian that oversaw Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Shougarian arrived in the United States in 1993 and quickly set about building U.S.-Armenia relations during the early years of hardship that marked Armenia’s emergence as a sovereign state. He had previously served as a senior staffer for the Armenian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, and was a senior foreign policy aide and spokesperson for President Ter-Petrossian.
Notably, Shougarian had the pleasure of opening, in the presence of President Ter-Petrossian, the building in Washington, D.C., that continues to house the Armenian Embassy. The building was purchased thanks to a major gift by Mr. Hirair Hovnanian.
Shougarian became a well-respected envoy during the Bill Clinton Administration and strived towards a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He then became Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1999 and served in that capacity until 2005. He returned overseas as Armenia’s ambassador to Italy, with appointment to Spain and Portugal as well, from 2005 to 2008.
“Rouben Shougarian was among Armenia’s pioneer diplomats who served the very young republic with great skill, intellect, humanity, and distinctive professionalism,” remarked Armenian Assembly President Carolyn Mugar. “A devoted son of Armenia, he subsequently applied his knowledge and experience in training Armenia’s next generation of public servants by directing the Tavitian Scholars Program in Public Policy and Administration at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy shaping the values for Armenia that all future generations can be proud of.”
Rouben Shougarian was born in 1962 and received his higher education at Yerevan Brusov State Pedagogical University of Russian and Foreign Languages and at Yerevan State University. Trained in philosophy, Shougarian authored West of Eden, East of the Chessboard: Four Philosophical Looks Upon the Unknown that encompassed his views on culture, literature, and an analysis of the contrasting social perceptions shaping the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, all in his continuing efforts to reach a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He also authored: Does Armenia Need a Foreign Policy?
Shougarian was a participant in several Armenian Assembly conferences and regularly brought his students to Washington to meet with the staff of the Assembly and Armenian National Institute. Along with former U.S. ambassadors to Armenia, John Evans and John Heffern, and current Armenian ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, Shougarian participated on a panel discussing U.S.-Armenia relations as part of the Assembly National Advocacy Conference in September 2019.
“The Armenian Assembly of America mourns the loss of an extraordinary statesman and Armenia’s first Ambassador to the United States,” stated Armenian Assembly co-chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Z. Krikorian. “He was a great friend, skilled diplomatic and played a vital role in building U.S.-Armenia relations. He continued to serve his homeland until the end of his life as a teacher and mentor to a generation of young diplomats who study at Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,” added Barsamian and Krikorian.
Shougarian passed away on April 21, 2020. He is survived by his wife Lilit, a concert pianist, and sons, Narek, Tigran and Haik.