Of the title below, in case you weren't sure, "Patria" means
fatherland, or one's native land. Thanks to TurkishArmenians.
The article is followed by another article, Diasporan
Our patriotism is nothing if not anti-Turkism, and the most patriotic Armenian is the most
anti-Turkish. In general, for an Armenian, anti-Turkism and patriotism are directly
proportional. The whole of our Soviet literature and art, the whole of our culture, bears
the stamp of anti-Turkism, and is filled with grieving, tearful, suffering demands for
Ararats, Sipans, Karses, Erzerums, and who knows where else, and with the representation
of our centuries-long, victorious and resounding past.
We represent a past that begins and ends with defeat in glorious colors, uncritically and
without examination, forgetting or not comprehending that we have real treasures —
achievements in literature and art, which we have so squeezed and belittled by forcing
them to fit within our narrow limits and world-view, which we have so failed to present to
the world, that they appear faded, or don’t appear at all — and instead we speak
arrogantly and vaingloriously about our age and our losses, seeking and finding the causes
of our losses in our neighbors and in the world. Europe is presented as the betrayer of
our interests — our neighbors, as the enemy. With no friends, no allies, it is we
against the world. As though the other nations and states of the world have only friends.
As though only we have no luck. All of this is the foundation of our entire culture of the
20th century, that is to say, the foundation we have been raised on. Wronged by the world
and our neighbors, we demand and demand. We are the aggrieved, and we live for our
grievances and our claims.
When all the nations that were under the Soviet dictatorship, from the Baltics to the Far
East, were inspired by the opportunity that presented itself and began to demand
independence and sovereignty, we began to demand not independence, but Karabakh, pitting
ourselves against our neighbor, without considering that our dispute with our neighbor
could be postponed, in the hope of solving it in the future, peacefully, as a dispute
between two independent and sovereign states.
Instead, we have acquired an unsolvable problem, a weapon aimed at our two states that
holds back our economic and political development.
Without thought, and without thought for ourselves, we demanded Karabakh and considered
any expression of independence to be a provocation. We created the Karabakh Committee and
made idols out of its members, none of whom had ever dealt with politics, making our
blindness absolute and transforming the people into a mob, and we began the headlong
regression that has gone on until today, and will keep on, because without ironing out the
Kharabakh wrinkle, our National Intelligentsia, with the complete irresponsibility
characteristic of the slave mentality that is theirs and theirs alone, continue to preach
grievance to such a degree that today the most important foundation of our state foreign
policy has become the Genocide, and as its consequence, grievance.
And there is none among them to say, let’s stop for a minute, let’s preach love and
respect for our neighbors, in the hope of receiving love and respect in return. No, only
Zeitoun, Ardahan, Van, Nakhijevan. Without thinking about the current and future potential
of the state, without understanding that it is better to have a small but dignified state
than two and a half to three million aggrieved claimants, constantly at war with their
neighbors. Only aimless claims, Armenian patriotism (different from all others), weeping
and wailing, cursing, complaining. Grievance is one of the two bases of the development of
Armenian thought over the last 100 or 200 years, the other being the Genocide, with all
its masochistic manifestations.
The intellectuals and public figures who served the dictators of all ages faithfully
and till the end, who swore loyalty to all kinds of anti-human ideas and slogans,
who are weak with longing for the old country, today, without having ended the war,
are pushing us toward a new war. If only there were someone who would ask these
patriotic intellectuals and their supporters, “What have you personally laid on
the altar of the freedom of the homeland? What have you sacrificed? How many drops
of blood? How many drops of sweat? How many battles have you fought? How many times
have you been wounded? How many of your sons, not yet turned twenty, have you
Just don’t say that all those boys who were killed are yours. They belong to the
mothers who go to Yerablur every Saturday, whose tears never dry. And have you been
to Yerablur? How many times? We have borne Panjouni (trans. note — the name of the
would-be politician in Yervand Otyan’s political satire of the early twentieth
century, still used mockingly today) on our shoulders, crowned in glory, from the
beginning of the 1900’s all the way to the 21st century, and now, fed on the milk
of a huge empire for 70 years, Panjouni is sending us into battle, for no one’s
sake but his own.
It was not by accident that during Soviet times we were allowed to engage in the
propaganda of anti-Turkism and grievance; this was consonant with the wishes and
plans that deprived us of statehood, that conquered us (through the fault and
participation of our National Intelligentsia as well). Yet any statement — even a
thought — spoken or written, about the restoration of statehood, about independent
statehood, was reprehensible, and no “national” intellectual or public figure,
no poet, no historian would even think of it, would even want to think of it. On the
contrary, they were against independence; they did not want it (as if it were up to
them). They swore allegiance to their masters every second, they considered the
chance to go to Moscow the greatest honor, they chattered about the brotherly family
and the true path of the beloved Party, and they would write a couple of lines about
Van, Masis, or the ruins of Ani, figuring they had done their patriotic duty, as
they had lost applause, decorations, and well-being.
The patriotism that seeks our future in the past, that doesn’t see the mistakes of
our fathers and grandfathers, that deems it inadmissible to talk about these
mistakes out loud, has always done us harm. This is how our grandfathers loved this
country, and as a result of their love we shrank down to an imperceptible spot on
the world map. We have inherited nothing from them but defeat and emigration. This
is what happened. Matricide and patricide are absolutely not patriotism. Let us
condemn Samvel (trans. note — the eponymous hero of Raffi’s novel, who killed
his mother for the sake of his homeland) as we would if he were our neighbor, and go
forward. Let our children look at us and at our grandfathers freely, critically and,
why not, with irony. Let them laugh at our grandfather’s and our “clodhopper”
patriotism, let them free themselves from it and create our state in accordance with
their own ideas, the ideas of citizens of the 21st century.
To this end, our press and television might, without limiting human rights at all,
avoid engaging in revanchist propaganda and sowing the hatred of neighboring peoples
and states in our children.
The author, Vartan Harutiunian, is a prominent human rights campaigner and was a
Soviet-era political prisoner.
|Diasporan Armenian Organizations
The following are the thoughtful comments of a Diasporan Armenian
Unfortunately, it is not surprising that the Diasporan Armenian organizations have once
again not only given a late opinion, but have expressed an opinion which perceives the
people of Armenia not as an end of any means, but as a means to their own ends. For the
people of Armenia, living in and being Armenian is not a question to be asked, an identity
to be pondered, or a path to be chosen. Being Armenian, just is.
There are many kinds of Diasporan Armenians. There are those who self-identify as
Armenian, though their families have lived outside of Armenia for many generations, such
as many of the members of the community in Fresno, California. There are those who have
permanently moved to Armenia since its independence; those who maintain their Armenian
identity through the Armenian church; those who don't speak a word of Armenian but give
financial gifts to Armenian organizations; those who identity is centered around their
chosen Armenian political party; those only recently have emigrated from Armenia.
I should point out that I was born and raised in the Diaspora. I have, at different points
in my life, been involved peripherally with these organizations. For a young Armenian
growing up on the East coast of the US, with a strong Armenian background, there is
absolutely no doubt that many of the organizations allowed not only a welcomed social
structure but an easily accepted identity - organizations that would allow me to embrace
both my American and Armenian identities, without making me explain myself. It was at an
AGBU school that I learned the Armenian alphabet: at an AYF camp that I first studied the
Armenian Genocide. For these reasons, and many more, I applaud many of these
organizations, be they political or religious - they have played a pivotal role in
maintaining and facilitating the Armenian identity for so many in the Diaspora. As a
greater community, we rely on these organizations to help us maintain our identity, to
help unify us and inform us.
Any organization which helps maintain an identity is at risk of providing an identity:
instead of helping develop thought and ideas, it may direct or even replace the process.
In a world where time is limited, the facets of life and its goals are many, these
organizations, sometimes dangerously so, replace individual thinking and true debate with
Party thoughts. This isn't necessarily always bad, but it must have its checks and
balances system, like any other. And when that is lost, through sensationalism, guilt, or
diversion, the tendency of ambition and power to overtake organizations can run unabated.
Time and time again, over the past 20 years, starting from the Kharabagh movement in 1988,
the independence of Armenia in 1991, the different regimes of the past 17 years, and now
the events of the past two months, those in the Diaspora not directly intertwined with any
organization have seen what we thought were the fundaments of these organizations not only
be debated, but traded, in effect, sold.
In effect, despite a plethora of beneficial programs, many of these organizations have
lost sight of their goals - maybe it is my misunderstanding. I thought the Armenian
Nation, including the people of Armenia, were an end for which there were many different
means. It seems these organizations have become, or think themselves, the end for which
they are the means.
What is more basic, and less political, than the following truths: a government opening
fire on its own people, repressing media, denying the right to protest, implementing a
policy of random imprisonment and beating.
Why is there even a question whether such actions should be condemned?
Have these organizations strayed so far from the dreams of their founding fathers that
they cannot stand up for the rights of the citizens in Armenia?