Special for The Armenian Weekly
I’m starting to feel bad for my father, since he has to put up with my debates about Armenian socio-politics almost daily. As a traditional Diasporan Armenian, he did his duty quite comprehensively—and passed on to his sons the love and care of our people. But it has begun to dawn on me that the context of his Armenian world and mine are quite different.
It was a sad and intimidating moment when a friend of mine recently remarked, “Our nation is boring. We are stuck between a corrupted state and a useless diaspora.” These words highlighted a very real situation that a growing number of young (and old) Armenians are waking up to: that our drifting existence is not getting any closer to a shore.
With these worrisome thoughts, I attacked my father’s peace full on. He, to me, is a good individual engrained with the principles and ideals of our traditional diasporan institutions and communities; unfortunately, this made him a target of my anger over where we stand today—or where we are not standing, where we should have been by now.
What has been the diaspora’s priority ever since its formal institutional establishment? Has it been the formal recognition of the genocide? The sustenance of Armenian cultural and social heritage outside of the homeland? The creation of an external powerbase of resources to assist the Republic of Armenia?
Perhaps it is not at first noticeable, but I did omit the most important supposed task: To formulate and execute strategies of gradually repatriating Armenians back to the post-Soviet, independent Armenia.
The change of context from my father’s world to mine has also offered a reinterpretation of priorities. Having lived a significant part of his life without an independent Armenian state, my father, along with his generation, primarily dealt with the Hai Tahd issue of formal international genocide recognition. They also took on the formidable effort to uphold our Armenian heritage in the expat communities around the world.
Those circumstances, however, are foreign to me and my generation. I do not know how it feels to not have an independent Armenia on the map—though I do, unfortunately, know what it’s like to fear its disappearance amid threats against its security and independence. Due to this experience in a different era, I recently began to propose a reevaluation of the diaspora’s priorities. And perhaps fairly enough, I haven’t received the most open of receptions.
We have an independent Armenia held hostage by its internal oligarchy, Russian Soviet-induced nostalgic schemes, self-satisfying EU economic interests, and most importantly a disenfranchised citizenry that is looking for some semblance of reason and change. And I’ve asked myself, What role is the diaspora playing in all of this? All I have stumbled upon is a wall of silence. Our diaspora has failed to engage in these matters to see the betterment of the only piece of territory we can call “ours and independent.”
Although one can compliment/criticize the diaspora for its various achievements/faults, the vigor used by its institutions to promote certain priorities—such as genocide recognition—has not extended to entering the existential debate regarding the Republic, and to sitting on our rightful seat as one of the societal pillars of this small country locked in a turbulent Caucasus.
The geographical distance between Diaspora and Republic should not be an excuse for social and political distance; rather, it should motivate proximity.
Tomorrow, and the day after, I will knock on my father’s door and barge in with the same questions on where our diaspora is headed—if anywhere—and to what end it is working to. His arguments will hold the subconscious hints of a world where an independent Armenia was not the first (and maybe only) representation of identity. But for me, the current independent state—of which I am not a citizen, and which has not contributed much to the world except for chess champions—is my only reference. Maybe it was my need for a full national identity that led me into a despair of arguments.
But it’s real to me and many others, who roam the many cities around the world, and when asked about where we are from, give only the address of a green mountainous land that, sadly, the majority of our compatriots have not visited. But it’s there. I’ve seen it.