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March 24, 2005
Retired Foreign Service Officer Edward Alexander to Deliver 12th Annual Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture
Edward Alexander, retired Foreign Service officer and author, will deliver the 12th annual Vardanants Day Armenian lecture, titled "Diplomacy and the Armenian Factor" at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.
Born in 1920 in New York City of Armenian parents, Alexander received his bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University in 1941 and a master of science degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. During World War II, he served in Europe on the staffs of General Eisenhower and General Bradley in the Psychological Warfare Division, after which he worked as public relations director for Sir Laurence Olivier on his films of Shakespeare’s "Henry V" and "Hamlet."
In 1950 Alexander organized broadcasts for the State Department to Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tatarstan, after which he was appointed chief of the Armenian Service, where he remained for 10 years. He then transferred to the Foreign Service and pursued a career in diplomacy, serving in West Berlin, Budapest, Athens and East Berlin. During one tour in Washington, he was appointed deputy director for the Soviet Union and East Europe, traveling throughout the Soviet bloc and supervising American press and cultural activities. He also played a key role in the visits of President Kennedy to Berlin and President Nixon to Bucharest.
Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has served on the Board for International Broadcasting, overseeing the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, and back in the State Department in the Freedom of Information Division. Thereafter, he was appointed a member of the U.S. Delegation on Human Rights and was its spokesman to conferences in Canada, Hungary and Switzerland. Alexander recently went to Armenia at the invitation of the Armenian Foreign Minister to serve as adviser to the ministry. He continues to be involved in Armenian affairs and is often called upon by the Armenian Embassy and the State Department for his counsel.
Alexander is the author of three books: "The Serpent and the Bees," about the 15-year long attempt by Armenian agents of the KGB to recruit him; "A Crime of Vengeance," about a murder trial in Berlin involving the genocide of the Armenians; and a novel, "Opus," about the joint search (by both an American and Soviet diplomat—both Armenian) for the stolen manuscript of a Beethoven cello concerto.
Using his Armenian heritage as a point of departure, Alexander will emphasize the role it played in his diplomatic career in the Foreign Service, which took him to both West and East Germany, Hungary and Greece. When he served in Washington as deputy director for the Soviet Union and East Europe, the KGB’s interest in him escalated. This is a theme that will permeate his talk. Alexander’s diplomatic activity continued after he retired from the Foreign Service, when the State Department appointed him to the U.S. Human Rights Delegation to attend several international conferences. At one of these, which he will recount, the Armenian factor surfaced in a startling way.
The Vardanants Day lecture series is sponsored by the Near East Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division. It is named after the Armenian holiday that commemorates the battle of Avarayr (A.D. 451), which was waged by Armenian Gen. Vardan Mamikonian and his compatriots against invading Persian troops who were attempting to reimpose Zoroastrianism on the Christian state. As a religious holiday, it also celebrates Armenia’s triumph over forces of assimilation.
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