Armenians pay last tribute to beloved singer Aznavour

By Hasmik Mkrtchyan

YEREVAN (Reuters) – Thousands of people gathered in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Tuesday to sign a condolence book and pay last respects to Charles Aznavour, a French singer of Armenian origin who died on Monday.

Aznavour passed away overnight at the age of 94 at one of his homes, in the village of Mouries, north of the French port city of Marseille.

His parents were Armenian and settled in France. As one of the most famous Armenians in the world, Aznavour was regarded as a national hero in the country.

“This is a great pain. But it is also a great pride (for us) that such a person was able to stun the world with his talent, skills and music for a century,” Ara Babloyan, the parliamentary speaker, told reporters after writing a message in the book.

Armenia in 2009 named Aznavour ambassador to Switzerland, where the singer resided in later years. He was also made UNESCO’s ambassador and permanent delegate of Armenia in 1995.

Aznavour wrote a song in 1975 in memory of mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915, which Armenia says was a genocide but which Turkey disputes.

He also donated profits from another song, “Pour toi Armenie,” (For you Armenia) to help rebuild the country after its 1988 earthquake in the town of Spitak.

Large crowds had gathered on the streets of Yerevan on Monday and on the central square named after him to light candles and mourn, while posters with his portrait appeared in the streets the next day.

A day of mourning will be declared in Armenia on Aznavour’s funeral day, the country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday, adding Aznavour’s death was “a big human loss.”

(Writing by Margarita Antidze; editing by Alexandra Hudson)