What I have in mind has been with me for quite some time now. It seeps into conversations. It’s convenient. No harm is meant by anyone using it. In its form, it’s common to most countries/nations. Unfortunately, in our case, it is a mindset fraught with peril to our future. If it becomes pervasive, the next time something like the “protocols” of last summer comes along, our reaction might be far more muted, simply because they won’t seem to intrude on a fundamental issue— restoration of our territories to their rightful owners: us.
What I’m talking about is referring to the Republic of Armenia (RoA) as “Armenia.” It is very common shorthand. One doesn’t always say “Estados Unidos Mexicanos,” it’s just Mexico. It’s not “al-Joomhooriet al-Loobnanieh,” it’s just Lebanon. It’s not the “United States of America,” it’s just the U.S. Yet it embeds the notion, paralleling the examples above, that our current Yerevan-centered republic is the whole ball of wax. Obviously, it’s not.
We have Artsakh/Lachin, Nakhichevan, Javakhk, of course Cantsag (a name currently disfigured into “Gyandzha” via Turkish renaming and Cyrillic-alphabet rendering), and all of Western Armenia (including Cilicia), and of course Oormia. These plus the RoA constitute Armenia.
“What’s the big deal?” you ask. “It’s just a name and the usage will change as the practical realities do,” you’re probably thinking. Not so. Words have tremendous power over how we perceive things and over time, they impose that reality on our brains and resulting behavior.
This really struck me recently at a gathering where the offending usage popped up. I pointed it out and was essentially pooh-poohed. The person doing so was no ideological slouch. She and others in that room are very nationalistic, active, and productive in and for both Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. So when a few people didn’t see the point of my raising the issue, I knew it was time to worry.
This mindset cedes Western Armenia to Turkey. It must end. It becomes even more striking when we notice what the mindset regarding our lands is on the Turkish side of the conflict. Obviously state representatives want not even a hint of ceding lands to us. But interestingly, even the most progressive Turks, those who get it when it comes to genocide recognition and sometimes even reparations, can’t get a handle on the notion of returning those lands to us. When we, too, effectively give up on our lands—even if just linguistically—we create a problem for ourselves that need not exist.
Please, for the next few weeks, make that small extra effort and clarify your usage: RoA vs. Armenia. It doesn’t take much, and you’ll be glad you did it.