Armenia has donated Fridtjof Nansen’s portrait by Diaspora Armenian artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian to the Kingdom of Norway.
Armenia’s Acting Minister of Diaspora Mkhitar Hayrapetyan today handed over the portrait to Norway’s Honorary Consul in Armenia Timothy David Straight.
Addressing the ceremony, Mkhitar Hayrapetyan noted that Nansen was one of the first to condemn the Armenian Genocide and helped tens of thousands of Armenian refugees find refugees in Armenia and other countries. He also recalled missionary Bodil Katharine Biørn, who worked as a nurse in Western Armenia and saved thousands of homeless and ill children.
“For the Armenian people Fridtjof Nansen and Bodil Katharine Biørn stand as symbols of Norway’s generosity, human benevolence and devotion to the protection of human and nations' rights,” the acting Minister said.
Mkhitar Hayrapetyan also reminded about the support of the Norwegian government and people in the restoration of the earthquake-hits areas of Armenia after 1988.
Norwegian explorer, politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen was a strong supporter of Armenia-related issues. One of the important parts of the public work of Nansen was his activity aimed at helping the Armenian people.
He became interested in the Armenian Question in September 1896, after he became aware of 1894-1896 Hamidian massacres. Prior to World War I Nansen presented a report on the rights of small nations at the University of Christiania (nowadays Oslo) University and touched upon the problems of the Armenians, among others. Right after World War I he became involved in the matter.
Starting from 1920 Nansen actively participated in the works of the League of Nations. During 1920-22 he was the League of Nations’ High Commissioner for the repatriation of prisoners of war. In 1921 he was appointed a High Commissioner for Refugees and organized an exchange of prisoners and repatriation of refugees.
Upon Nansen’s offer, the League of Nations ratified the Nansen Passport which gave right to the stateless refugees to enter different countries. This allowed more than 320,000 Armenians receive the right to free movement.
In 1924 Fridtjof Nansen started to study the repatriation issues of the Armenian refugees. In June 1925 he visited Soviet Armenia and, as a result, succeeded in organizing the repatriation of nearly 7,000 Armenian refugees.