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Aurora (Arshaluys) Mardiganian (January 12, 1901, Tchemesh-Gedzak, Western Armenia, Ottoman Empire - February 6, 1994, Los Angeles, California, USA) was an Armenian American actress and a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.



A film poster/flyer for the 1919 film "Auction of Souls"

Aurora Mardiganian was the daughter of a prosperous Armenian family living in Tchemesh-Gedzak, twenty miles north of Harput, Ottoman Turkey. Witnessing the deaths of her family members and being forced to march over 1,400 miles, during which she was kidnapped and sold into the slave markets of Anatolia, Mardiganian escaped to Tiflis (modern Tbilisi, Georgia), then to St. Petersburg, from where she traveled to Oslo and finally, with the help of Near East Relief, to New York. Here she was approached by Harvey Gates, a young screenwriter, who helped her write and publish a narrative that is often described as a memoir titled Ravished Armenia; the Story of Aurora Mardiganian, the Christian Girl, Who Lived Through the Great Massacres (1918). The narrative was used for writing a film script that was produced in 1919, Mardiganian playing herself, and first screened in London as "Auction of Souls." The first New York performance of the silent film under the title "Ravished Armenia" took place on February 16, 1919, in the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, with society leaders, Mrs. Oliver Harriman and Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt, serving as co-hostesses on behalf of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief. Mardiganian was referred to in the press as the Joan of Arc of Armenia, describing her role as the spokesperson for the victims of the horrors that were then taking place in Turkey and the catalyst for the humanist movement in America. In the 1920s Mardiganian married and lived in Los Angeles until her death on February 6, 1994.


  • Anthony Slide, Ravished Armenia and the Story of Aurora Mardiganian, Rowman & Littlefield, 1997, 240 p.
  • The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response‎, by Peter Balakian, 2004, p. 312
  • Starving Armenians: America and the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1930 and After, by Merrill D. Peterson, University of Virginia Press, 2004, p. 58


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