Shavarsh Karapetyan

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Shavarsh Karapetyan
Shavarsh Karapetyan 2014.jpg
Shavarsh Karapetyan in 2014
Personal information
BornMay 19, 1953 (1953-05-19) (age 67)
Kirovakan, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union

Shavarsh Vladimiri (Vladimirovich)[1] Karapetyan (Armenian: Շավարշ Կարապետյան; born May 19, 1953) is a retired Armenian finswimmer, best known for saving the lives of 20 people in a 1976 incident in Yerevan.


Karapetyan was born on May 19, 1953 in Armenia's third largest city of Kirovakan (now called Vanadzor), then part of the Soviet Union. His family moved to Yerevan in 1964, where Shavarsh finished eight years of school and then attended a technical school for auto-mechanics. By the advice of family friends, he started to learn swimming at a young age. He later switched to finswimming. In 1975-1976, Karapetyan served in a Soviet Air Defence Forces base in the Baku military district.[2]

1976 trolleybus incident[edit]

Karapetyan is a Merited Master of Sports of the USSR and a ten-time World Record-breaker in finswimming. He became well known in the former USSR for his heroic actions of saving peoples' lives. On September 16, 1976 while jogging alongside Yerevan Lake with his brother Kamo, also a finswimmer, Karapetyan had just completed his usual distance of 20 km (12 mi) when he heard the sound of a crash and saw a sinking trolleybus which had gone out of control and fallen from a dam wall.[3]

The trolleybus lay at the bottom of the reservoir some 25 metres (80 ft) offshore at a depth of 10 metres (33 ft).[4] Karapetyan swam to it and, despite conditions of almost zero visibility, due to the silt rising from the bottom, broke the back window with his legs. The trolleybus was crowded, it carried 92 passengers, Karapetyan started bringing people to the top, where his brother would get them.[5]

The combined effect of cold water and the multiple lacerations from glass shards led to Karapetyan's hospitalization for 45 days[4], as he developed pneumonia and sepsis. Subsequent lung complications prevented Karapetyan from continuing his sports career.[5]

Karapetyan's achievement was not immediately recognized. All related photos were kept at the district attorney’s office and were only published two years later. He was awarded the Medal "For the Salvation of the Drowning" and the Order of the Badge of Honor. His name became a household name in the USSR on October 12, 1982, when Komsomolskaya Pravda published the article on his feat, entitled "The Underwater Battle of the Champion". This publication revealed that he was the rescuer; and he received about 60,000 letters.[citation needed]

On February 19, 1985, Shavarsh just happened to be near a burning building that had people trapped inside. He rushed in and started pulling people out without a second thought. Once again, he was badly hurt (severe burns) and spent a long time in the hospital.

Karapetyan was later awarded a UNESCO "Fair Play" award for his heroism.[6]

The main belt asteroid 3027 Shavarsh, in 1978 discovered by Nikolai Chernykh at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, was named after him (approved by the MPC in September 1986).[7][1]

Karapetyan moved to Moscow where he founded a shoe company called "Second Breath". He regularly visits Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh.[8]

Karapetyan took part in the 2014 Winter Olympics torch relay for the second stage of the run. He was passed the torch in Moscow and carried it towards Krasnogorsk.[9] The next day, Karapetyan carried the torch for a second time. He also stated in an interview, "I was carrying the torch for Russia and for Armenia."[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Minor Planet Circulars (M. P. C.) 11159 18 September 1986, retrieved 22 Oktober 2017.
  2. ^ Биография Шаварша Карапетяна (in Russian). RIA Novosti. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  3. ^ Agentstvo pechati "Novosti" (1985). USSR Yearbook. The Agency. p. 69.
  4. ^ a b Soviet Champion Saves 20 Lives, 1976 Archived 2014-07-28 at the Wayback Machine. Yahoo Voices. Retrieved 19 July 2013
  5. ^ a b "The Plunge «". Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  6. ^ International Fair Play Committee: FAIR PLAY AWARD WINNERS — Shafarsh V.KARAPETIAN Archived 2013-10-12 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. — Fifth Revised and Enlarged Edition. — B., Heidelberg, N. Y.: Springer, 2003. — P. 249. — ISBN 3-540-00238-3
  8. ^ Շավարշ Կարապետյան. «Հայկական ֆուտբոլը» նոր տերմին է (in Armenian). Sport. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  9. ^ Олимпийский огонь потух во время пробега по Кремлю. Forbes (in Russian). 6 October 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  10. ^ Շավարշ Կարապետյանը երկրորդ անգամ մասնակցել է Սոչիի Օլիմպիական խաղերի փոխանցումավազքին (in Armenian). Sport. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.