To the West(ern Armenia)

For years now, I have been mocked, or drawn smirks, or pooh-poohed, or patronized, or ignored, whenever I mention restoration of Western Armenian territories to their rightful owners.  Some of those who have given me this kind of treatment even present “brilliant reasons” or “arguments,” which effectively say “forget it, those lands are long gone. The contention is “we should not/cannot even take care of the current Republic of Armenia (RoA) and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh/NKR)”; or “who’s gonna move there anyway?”; or even the always-sinister-sounding, conspiracy-flavored “’they’ will never let it happen!”

Wilson’s Demarcation of the Armenia-Turkey Border

I realized it was high time to put forth a proposal to initiate serious discussion of how we should proceed to regain those lands rather than if we should.  Here it is. Very preliminary, very general, very rough though it may be, this is a three-generation plan for restoring Wilsonian Armenia to achieve the United Armenia declared on May 28, 1919.

Before proceeding, allow me one disclaimer.  I am neither a cartographer, nor an artist, so please forgive the coarseness of the accompanying map showing the delineation of the three steps of my proposal.  On this map, I have tried to reproduce Wilson’s “boundary between Turkey and Armenia” along with rough lines showing the temporary borders I envision for the first two phases of my proposal.

Three Steps to Wilsonian Armenia

Conversely, the other map accompanying this piece, one you have probably seen before, is what was generated by President Woodrow Wilson when he demarcated the border based on his charge under the authority of the San Remo peace conference.  I had hoped to generate a map that matched more closely this one, but the place names—mountains, cities, rivers, etc.—have either changed (even the Turkish ones), been obliterated, or have simply not been entered into Google Earth’s database.  Establishing the current name-equivalents of those cited in the verbal description of the boundary is obviously an important first step, requiring some serious research.  There are 55 different segments described in delineating the border, and many of them have multiple sub-descriptions.

On to my actual proposal…

The basic notion I am putting forth is that we should take incremental “bites” of territory—small, medium, then large.  This multigenerational approach allows us, and in fairness, the Turks, too, to anticipate and plan for what can only be described as massive change.  It allows both sides to adjust to the exchange of big cities and small villages, industry and agriculture, road and rail routes, and even people, less disruptively.

If it takes a decade or so to negotiate this arrangement among the Diaspora, Yerevan, Ankara, and any relevant international bodies/entities, and if we assume each generation is 30 years long, then in a century, Wilsonian Armenia will be properly constituted and serve to reestablish the entirety and integrity of Armenian culture.  I make this last remark because I have observed that in every corner of the Armenian “universe” different snippets of our culture have been saved, and this leads me to believe that the crypto-Armenians of Turkey have also retained some otherwise forgotten treasures.  All of these can regroup and amalgamate in United Armenia.

As each phase is implemented, people will be supported in deciding to remain where they are or move into or out of Armenian controlled territory.  Of course constitutional amendments in the RoA will enshrine the Armenian nature of the state being rebuilt, without denying the cultural rights of individual inhabitants.  During these population exchanges, crypto-Armenians living too far west to be included in Wilsonian Armenia must receive highest priority and support if they want to move into newly re-Armenianized territory, an aspect in which the Diaspora can play a major role of incremental financial support, even though Turkey, as the culpable entity for the status quo and as the beneficiary of the ill-gotten gains of the Genocide would have to undertake the bulk of the financial burden of “Wilsonianization” process.

The first generation’s “tranche” (a term that seems really popular in international circles) of territory that would be tied to the RoA is marked by the red line on the accompanying map.  This is the smallest increment because it is the first.  It allows the RoA to “digest” this major change and learn how to do so optimally for the next two tranches.  Very roughly, it hews to the territories frequently referred to as “Kars and Ardahan” that were part of the Russian Empire until WWI.  It is mostly mountainous terrain, perhaps economically best suited to the eco- and adventure tourism being pursued in the RoA.  It is also home to much of the Hamshentzee population (Islamicized Armenians) of Turkey which makes the integration process a little easier for the population of the area.  Perhaps the old Gyumri/Kars rail line I’ve heard about could be reactivated.

The second generation’s tranche is medium sized and bears more significance.  Marked by the green line on the map, it includes Mt. Ararat, emotionally, culturally, and even economically (think mountaineering) very important.  Trabizon, which Wilson included in his border to provide Armenia with a port and thereby access to the world, is part of this phase and would allow us to regain, partially, our historic position as a major trade route.  It includes Erzrum/Karin which has great strategic importance (see Ruben Ter Minasian’s Hayasdan Meech Tzamakayeen Oogheeneroo Vra).

The third generation’s tranche is the largest and introduces a new twist.  It is marked by the black line of Wilson’s border.  Not only does it restore to Armenians Van and the home of our Nayirian roots, but it introduces a Kurdish factor far more significantly than in the first two phases.  This area is most heavily populated by Kurds and in its southern reaches abuts the nascent Kurdish state that is currently part of Iraq.  We will have two generations to hammer out the difficulties this may be present with our closest neighbors.

Throughout this century-long process, the largest challenge, conundrum, we Armenians will face is population.  How do we “make up” for our losses during the Armenian Genocide?  We will have to create new modes of understanding internationally, and, put bluntly, do some serious procreating internally.  Plus, we will have to guide our children into fields of endeavor that are best suited to each of the tranches in anticipation of their turn-over to Yerevan’s control.

For Turkey, two major challenges will be foremost: demilitarization and “honestification” of history.  The demilitarization will have to occur in each of the tranches well ahead of the time of transition, if nothing else, as a trust-building measure.  Teaching close to 80 million people that they have been lied to for a century will take at least a generation.  Also, international oversight will be necessary to assure that when withdrawing from these territories, a scorched earth policy is not implemented by Turkey.  Only legitimately sensitive military technology may be removed, with all other infrastructure remaining in place and in usable condition.

I know this proposal may seem far-fetched.  But, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  If you don’t start, you can never finish.  Let’s get busy with this project, not only because it is right and necessary, but also because it will contextualize all other Armenian endeavors, at least politically, and later culturally.  Think of how much more natural genocide recognition would become.  Think of how much more diplomatic and economic maneuvering space the RoA would gain through this process, even its mere initiation.  Think of the cultural/archeological odyssey and renaissance we could enter.

Unfortunately, Kharpert (Dzopk/Sophene), Sepasdia, Tigranakert, and their environs—not to mention, Cilicia—are not included in this calculus.  But, their re-Armenianization, in some form, will stand as a challenge for our descendants a century from now.

Finally, we should start celebrating November 24 as the day of demarcation of Wilsonian Armenia.

What do you think?  What can you contribute to revising/refining/developing this proposal?  What diplomatic and governmental channels and entities (other than the obvious Republics of Armenia and Turkey) should be approached with the proposal and when/how?


Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
Garen Yegparian

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  1. I think this is a great thought-experiment, idea or plan (take your pick). However, I would like to add that the first steps toward this GRAND vision would be to secure Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the Republic of Armenia, no? If we cannot address a ‘frozen conflict’ that is only 25 years old, how can we un-freeze a conflict that is 100+ years old? If we cannot open borders that have been closed for 25 years, how can we alter those same borders that have been in place for 100 years? We must learn how to crawl before we can fly..

    Another point: Armenians do not necessary need to “seriously procreate” to rebuild our population.. there are 7+ million Armenians living outside of Armenia (not including crypto/hidden-Armenians in Turkey). Let’s come up with a plan to repatriate these Armenians who can rebuild the homeland rather than help build other genocidal/colonizing nations such as Russia, USA, Canada, etc.

  2. It seems like Mr. Yegparian has good intentions but not following the happenings in the world regarding the Armenian rights and its restoration efforts being proceeded since a while.
    The Wilson arbitral award can’t be partitioned into any phases, it will be implemented one for all.
    Follow the happenings on

  3. One thing we should not forget is that Wilson’s Armenia was meant to include a significant minority of Turks and Kurds. Since we presumably aren’t looking to create such a situation, and the issues that could arise from it (we could be a minority in our own country – or not our country as the case may be), I’d say it’s better to focus on a new and smaller border that makes more sense today, but which will be exclusively Armenians (including Crypto-Armenians and Hemshin Armenians).

    What should those borders be? I’m sure everyone has their ideas, but we need to be focused and as realistic as possible if we want to see this. For me, an outlet to the Black Sea is of course the top priority. Turkey owes us that after proving for so long how much they hate us and are willing to close our border for supposedly our actions in Artsakh – which their actions in Cyprus proceeded by about 2 decades.

    Aside from that, we have to decide if our desire is for certain bits of land, or a contiguous parcel. For example, something like your “first phase” of land, but with a little more coastline, and a completely separate piece of land in Cilicia by the Syrian border could be a different approach. And/or a territory along Lake Van for example.

    I do like the idea of taking the long view. Giving the current residents many years to prepare and move.

    But since this is an ARF publication, and the ARF is a part of the Armenian governing coalition, I am not going to be shy to say that we need much better governance in Armenia right this minute, and it IS more critical to our future than land reparations at this time. Our country is being depopulated by the horribly corrupt government and the poverty and hopelessness that accompany any such corruption. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have great and honest governance and a booming economy and population growth rate.

  4. very interesting indeed

    how exactly will turkey allow this to happen? and how exactly will you increase populations in these cities as well as keep people on these very rural lands?

  5. Your dreams should not be mocked, returning Western Armenia should be the ultimate goal of Armenians and repairment for the genocide. However, I don’t think this article provides a realistic path of achieving that goal. Even in the
    most optimistic scenario, even if Turkey
    miraculously recognizes the genocide, Turks
    won’t agree on giving back those lands, not now
    nor in 3 generations. They will have to be forced
    to do so. Since forcing them with war isn’t an
    option, we must seek a legal path to do so. The
    only realistic way is to turn to (international) law
    courts or tribunals to make strong reparation claims against Turkey. The problem is the current lack of those kind of international courts, and the lack of willingness of Turkey and the worldpowers to acknowledge them.

  6. I am trying to write this with a straight face, how are you going to pull this off with Armenia’s current population. Just the population of Trabzon is 800,000 people. You’ll have more Turks in your “pipe-dream” then Armenians. Instead of trying to take other people’s lands, why don’t you start by trying to establish peace in the region. Just saying.

    • To Tuna, why don’t you stop denying the Armenian Genocide? Your government committed state sponsored ethnic cleansing against Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks. So it is the Turks who take other peoples lands by way of ethnic cleansing. The Azeris, your little brothers, have tried also, but failed. Turkey is an illegal occupier of western Armenia. The cancer in this region are the turks. They have been ever since they arrived in the 11th century. If you try to dispute this with me i will throw so many quotes and links at you it will make your head spin.

    • Vartan,

      I don’t think I deny what happened to your people during the final days of the Empire. I have read the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide that was adopted by the UN and you can characterize what happened to the Armenians as such according to that convention. However, where I differ from you is I feel no obligation to accommodate your demands or give any compensation and my reason is simple. In 1915 genocide was not a crime. So ethically, I agree that it can be defined as a genocide; but by law it cannot. You cannot make up a law as you go along. If we are to go back in history why isn’t what happened to the Muslims in Spain during the “Reconquista” genocide. The Muslim population of Spain was wiped out completely, unlike the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, because there were still large communities left untouched by the deportation laws in Istanbul and the Aegean. Or Richard the Lionhearts killing every single Muslim in the city of Acre genocide when the terms of surrender were agreed upon, but the Crusaders decided to retract their promise that if the city surrendered no one would be hurt. So when the the West decides to accept those as genocide, say they are sorry and pay compensation then I will definitely change my mind.
      And one more thing, as Turkey’s EU prospect ended this year, so has the significance for Turkey of this issue. I do not see our future with the West anymore, so little chance of any compensation from Turkey.

    • Wrong. The punishment for genocide – whether you want to call it exterminations, mass liquidations or massacres – its the same, was conceived by the Allies during the first world war and included in the Treaty of Sevres – 1920, which the Turks signed. This included
      obligations by Turkey to make restitution to the survivors of the victims of state sponsored mass extermination…..

      the Treaty also contains commitments to try Turkish officials for war crimes committed by Ottoman Turkey against citizens of Turkey of different ethnic origin (the Armenians)….

      Pursuant to article 230 of the Treaty of Sčvres:

      “The Turkish Government solemnly undertakes to facilitate to the
      greatest possible extent the return to their homes and
      re-establishment in their businesses of the Turkish subjects of
      non-Turkish race who have been forcibly driven from their homes by
      fear of massacre or any other form of pressure since January 1, 1914.
      It recognises that any immovable or movable property of the said
      Turkish subjects or of the communities to which they belong, which can
      be recovered, must be restored to them as soon as possible, in
      whatever hands it may be found…. The Turkish Government agrees that
      arbitral commissions shall be appointed by the Council of the League
      of Nations wherever found necessary. .. These arbitral commissions
      shall hear all claims covered by this Article and decide them by
      summary procedure.”

      The Treaty also recognized Wilsonian Armenia, who’s borders were outlined by Woodrow Wilson and signed by all parties present, including the Turkish representatives..

      So, it was already recognized as a crime against humanity well before 1948. and if it was recognized as genocide then the laws of punishment and restitution for the crimes of genocide apply – period.

      This is why your turkish government so vehemently opposes any acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide – because they know punishment and restitution WILL follow.

  7. The goal of restoring Western Armenian lands is an important one for the Republic of Armenia. However, at the moment this article is a case of wishful thinking. It ignores the many real political obstacles and Armenia’s current limited power.

    How can we take this proposal seriously? The governments of Turkey and Armenia do not have any working relationship. A good part of Western Armenia overlaps with the maps of an independent Kurdistan. And what country willingly gives up land just because it is the right thing to do, especially if it won’t admit any wrong-doing?

    In the long term Armenia must fundamentally have a strong military and economy. This provides leverage in any negotiation and the ability to take military action, when its opponent is weakened. Let’s focus on the steps to make Armenia a strong, powerful nation.

  8. The level of hypocrisy in this article is disgusting. The author tells future generations that they must orient their whole lives around the benefit of some future expanded Armenia. Women must essentially give up their careers in order to devote their lives to “serious procreating,” and men must be “guide[d] into fields of endeavor that are best suited to each of the tranches in anticipation of their turn-over to Yerevan’s control.” The result will be an insular nation full of baby-makers in the case of women and one-track-minded robots in the case of men. Who wouldn’t want to live among them?

    Yet what example does the author set regarding this outrageous request? He doesn’t even live in Armenia. Does he have seven kids? Does blogging about “anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian” constitute a “field of endeavor that [is] best suited to each of the tranches in anticipation of their turn-over to Yerevan’s control”?

    So the author wants to live according to his own personal preferences and free choices, but the rest of us have to sacrifice our individual desires, passions, and potential, in favor of some twisted utilitarian vision involving a wholly hypothetical future state.

    I’ll subscribe to this life when the author does.

  9. I had thought that the ship called western Armenia had long sailed, nearly a hundred years back…It would appear that the US also abandoned support for the plan.
    TFR (Total Fertility Ratio) is an accurate measure of the “serious procreating” you suggest. The TFR of Armenia is around 1.5, with people refusing to have a second child, if you add the emigration of hundreds of thousands who are leaving every year, you have a scenario of lighting the “demographic candle” both sides.

    So in short this whole article appears to be an irredentist aspiration and a pipe dream.

  10. Those desperate Turk denialists, as always, never miss an opportunity to minimize the three genocides committed by their savagely criminal, stolen country against the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians.

    “In 1915, genocide was not a crime.”

    Exactly how is it possible that committing a genocide in 1915, 1815, or even 1715, did not constitute the definition of a crime? Of course, in your culture, committing a genocide has never been viewed as being a crime; however, in all the other cultures, committing a genocide has always been viewed as being a crime. As a matter of fact, prior to Raphael Lemkin’s coining of the word, “genocide,” which was initially based on what occurred against the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population during World War One, this particular crime was referred to as “crimes against humanity.”

    And how horribly absurd is your claim that the Muslim population of Spain during the “Reconquista,” was subjected to a genocide. Not even close! The “Reconquista,” revolves around the wars that took place during the Middle Ages between Christians and Muslims for control of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal). As a result of the Christians winning these wars, the Muslim inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula eventually emigrated back to northern Africa.

    As for the Armenians, the whole entire Armenian population within the six provinces of Western Armenia was wiped out by your Turk ancestors. All of the other regions within the Ottoman Empire were also wiped out of Armenians, as well as Greeks and Assyrians. The only place within the Ottoman Empire where any kind of Armenian community existed after the Armenian Genocide was Istanbul; and that’s because Germany instructed the Ottoman Turk leaders to exclude them (they numbered around 80 thousand, as opposed to the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population of 2.1 million right before 1915.

    And whether Turkey continues to sail with the West or not, really makes no difference. It’s crumbling! Present-day Turkey (along with its Islamic terrorist leader) isn’t going to last for very long. The 20 million Kurds of Turkey (who happen to be the fastest growing group within the country, and are on pace to become the largest group within Turkey by 2040) are fed up with the brutal persecution and military attacks that their communities are persistently subjected to, and as a result, they’re fighting back. Hey, if the Kurds turn this into a guerrilla war (which they should most certainly do), there will be very little that Turkey can possibly do. The Turkish army does not have the capability of fighting a guerrilla war, especially against the Kurds who are deeply skilled in this particular type of warfare. And, the same way that Turkey used the Kurds as a tool to wipe out the entire Armenian population of Western Armenia, the Armenian Nation, likewise, will also use the Kurds as one of its tools to obtain back those stolen Western Armenian lands.

  11. Would it be probable for Armenia to sue Turkey for Wilsonian Armenian lands in the International Court of Justice since the Treaty of Kars (defines current borders) was signed by Bolshevik Russia and Kemalist Turkey, which were unrecognized subjects and therefore the treaty has no legal value?

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