It was with great pleasure that I read my friend Antranig Kasbarian’s article, adapted from an ARF Day speech delivered in Detroit earlier this month which I, unfortunately, missed due to prior out-of-town commitments. Had I been present it could have been a lively debate in viva voce, but we can do the same with the pen rather than our voices.
After expanding on the historical and traditional lines the ARF has followed since its inception, Dr. Kasbarian arrives at his conclusions by extolling the three pillars he considers the most important for his party as follows:
1) A commitment to Armenia’s sovereignty. This is a delusional and misleading statement as it continues the “old” ARF adherence to a “free and independent Armenia.” Yes, this could have been a slogan that gathered diasporans and native Armenians around the flag, and was the raison d’etre of the ARF itself, but it’s become totally obsolete since Armenia’s official independence in 1991. So, with independence, the ARF’s main cause of existence vanished. Therefore, suggesting the party’s commitment to “Armenia’s sovereignty” is an oxymoron.
2) Pursuit of the Armenian Cause. Since the above pillar has become obsolete, the ARF has needed another rallying point to maintain its existence, and they chose the Hai Tahd or recognition of the Armenian Genocide. A worthy cause and one close to every Armenian’s heart. The question, however, is very simple: If the ARF has been trying so hard to influence governments through lobbying, international claims, and even armed struggle, where is this much-desired recognition? They have been trying to get this since 1923 or even 1965 and today, 98 or even some 50 years later we have no results. So, I would submit that maybe all Armenian organizations and/or political parties, including the ARF, are doing something wrong! Time to change the approach for better performance and results, I say.
3) Armenopreservation (Hayabahbanum). Keeping the Armenian language alive through schools, cultural events, and a very strong affiliation with the Armenian Church is what the ARF has done to maintain the preservation of Armenian-ness. How successful has the ARF been in this endeavor with the youth? Has the ARF reached out to sons and daughters of mixed marriage Armenians, or culturally hybrid-Armenians who do not speak their mother tongue or know anything about Armenian history and have thus been left outside the Armenian “family”? Or is it that the Armenian Church has been so successful in attracting the youth with its rigid orthodoxy, that has helped the ARF? Becoming an Armenian does not, certainly, mean you have to become an ARF member (or “soldier”), does it now?
The ARF that Dr. Kasbarian is talking about is what he knows to be a “revolutionary” organization despite the fact that armed revolutionary acts like the ARF’s event with the Ottoman Bank belongs to Armenian legends of the past. The ARF’s military-organization-type party with its “Central Bureau” (that, again, is a name that belongs to the Soviet era of the Politburo) is not something today’s youth can accept very easily without the necessary transparency.
Finally, the claim that “the ARF by its nature embraces a diverse whole” is unequivocally totalitarian in its meaning. In other words, despite the diversity of opinions and beliefs, diverse type of Armenians and the globality of today’s Armenian communities, the ARF should always be the central and all-encompassing organization to lead Armenians to their objectives, which are still ill-defined within the ARF itself!
I don’t think there is any reasonable Armenian in the world today who does not accept the ARF’s tremendous contributions to the development of our nation, identity, language, and culture, particularly in the diaspora. As we approach the beginning of a new year, however, maybe it is time for all of us and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation itself to engage in some real self-criticism and decide to change approaches and its mindset, or else become yet another failed attempt to control and direct a continuously better educated, free-thinking, intellectually demanding and creative generation of young Armenians.
Miran P. Sarkissian
Miran P. Sarkissian is an international business consultant currently operating between Brussels and Detroit/Miami Beach while traveling around the world on corporate assignments. He has written numerous articles for a variety of publications.