With the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaching, Armenians have done well in preserving the identity of our lost land, at least mentally if not physically, since 1915. Yet, the one group that has failed us in large part is our intellectuals.
Our scholars and academics over the past century have intentionally or unintentionally confused the map of Armenia in the minds of not only non-Armenians but also Armenians, much to the favor of the big bad foe, Turkey. When our intellectuals began using the term “Anatolia” to make it easier for non-Armenians to cope with the geography of Western Armenia, Cilicia, and other Armenian-populated regions, they ironically gave the lead to Turkish linguistic dominance over those lands instead of specifically calling them by their actual names. And over time, the term “Anatolia” obtained scholastic reputation as covering all lands in the Ottoman Empire, even those where Armenians lived long before Turks ever showed up in town.
It is time for us to stop this, especially now, after 100 years. It is time to bring the term “Armenian Highlands”—the phrase used for the combination of Western Armenia, Eastern Armenia, Nakhichevan, Javakhk, and Artsakh—back in academic use. Yes, this term already exists, but unfortunately our intellectuals have been swept away with using “Anatolia” to define even the lands that are simply not part of Anatolia, physically nor culturally. These lands are the Armenian Highlands, which had a culture and history separate from Anatolia.
So by using “Anatolia,” not only did they use the wrong word, they used it on the wrong region. And they gave a Turkish impression to the lands where Armenian history and heritage was born. Indeed, Cilicia, Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir), and other places (beyond the Armenian Highlands) are part of Anatolia. That is because Armenians did roam south over the centuries, as they did north to Nor Nakhichevan in the northern Caucasus. They also went east and west. But all these directions in no way substitute the centrality of our national heritage, which was born and is infused in the Armenian Highlands.
In political struggles, geographic terms are very important. Neglecting the Armenian names of our regions, towns, and cities is surrendering our rightful claims—not for compensation necessarily, but for history’s sake. Just as the Turks wiped out all of the names of Armenian cities and towns, it’s time we wipe out the erroneous name attached to our mountains.
Forget Anatolia. It is the Armenian Highlands. Ardahan. Alashgert. Van. Kars. Ani. Garin. Sasoon. All the way to Dilijan. Datev. Shushi. These are not in Anatolia. These cities where our history began, where our culture formed, and where we began to expand from are not Anatolia. They are all in the Armenian Highlands. Intellectuals, take heed.
And while we’re at this cultural-linguistic struggle of preservation, how about we begin using the Armenian names of the cuisine we love to boast about to foreigners? Admittedly, the origins of these cuisines could be Turkish, or Greek, or Albanian, or Bosnian, but who cares? Use the Armenian name. In a few hundred years, the world will assume them to be Armenian.
It all starts by reclaiming the true identity of our national birthplace by using its original name: the Armenian Highlands—or Hayastani Lernashkharh.