ANCA Desk: Maine NKR Victory Symbolizes Progress, Hope

On April 10, the Maine state legislature unanimously passed a resolution that recognized the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) and called on both the U.S. president and Congress to support the NKR. The resolution was spearheaded by Rep. Scott Hamann, a respected member of the state legislature representing Maine’s 123rd House District. He worked closely with the ANC of Maine and key community leaders, most notably Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, a Baku pogroms survivor, lawyer, and author of the book Nowhere: A Story of Exile.

Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly
Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly

I was at the Maine State House that day to represent the ANCA Eastern Region and to witness history being made. Is that an exaggeration? Absolutely not. Maine became the third state in the country to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabagh and to pass legislation supporting the republic. The resolution passed nearly a year after the Rhode Island General Assembly passed one in May 2012; the Massachusetts House of Representatives also passed one supporting the self-determination and democratic independence of Karabagh in August 2012.

The victory is one that the ANCA takes very seriously because it reaffirms that which we already know to be true: The Nagorno Karabagh Republic is independent, democratic, and inspired. The Armenians there have heard the news of Maine’s support and can add one more body to the list of those who support them. Despite the constant turmoil with Azerbaijan and the violations of ceasefire, the people of Artsakh now have a new piece of hope with the Maine resolution.

How does one state recognizing Artsakh matter? I can see why this would be open to argument, considering we’re so physically separated from Artsakh and it can be difficult to see direct results from these events. The positive outcomes, however, are endless. The fact that the Maine legislature passed a joint resolution unanimously and without any dissent speaks volumes for Americans who believe in liberty and equal rights for all people.

That’s the basis of the work the ANCA and Armenian-Americans are doing regarding Karabagh. We emphasize the importance of a people’s inalienable right to govern themselves. These are the same principles America was founded on. We make sure our elected officials understand that, and realize they’re aligning with the right side of humanity and history when they agree to sign, co-sponsor, or pass legislation on NKR.

ANCA Eastern Region activists like Astvatsaturian Turcotte are accomplishing huge things because they are inspired to do so. Grassroots is the essence of what we do, and people like Astvatsaturian Turcotte embody that. She was instrumental in seeing this process through and in a short amount of time. A victory for Armenians was the result. In short, she cared, saw an opportunity to affect change, and carried it through to completion.

That’s what the ANCA is all about, and that’s why we constantly welcome new activists, new ideas, and new direction.

This victory in Maine is very fitting for April, a historically tragic month for Armenians. I’ve written a lot about the genocide and what the ANCA and local communities are doing to commemorate April 24, but we need to broaden our view and realize that the NKR is just as vital to our cause. I’m not saying we should forego any recognition or remembrance of the genocide. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m saying that we need to incorporate NKR efforts with how we conceptualize the month of April. The ANCA already does a lot of work throughout the year to boost NKR education, legislation, and support. But if we as Armenians limit our focus of April strictly to the genocide, we are overlooking opportunities to make big moves and make more noise.

The NKR resolution in Maine is the prime example: Using the proper channels, we can see more positive outcomes like this every year. Heck, why not every month? The process becomes easier with the more people that step up and take initiative.

You could be that person. Your sister or friend or teacher could be that person. If you’re interested in helping ANCA efforts, I want to hear from you. Feel free to reach me at (917) 428-1918 or

Victories like this in Maine should be more frequent. The ANCA Eastern Region is working round the clock to make that a reality. Join us.

Michelle Hagopian

Michelle Hagopian

Michelle Hagopian is the chairwoman of AYF-YOARF Central Executive. She has served as the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Eastern Region.

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