Commemorating an Ongoing Genocide as an Event of the Past…


From the Armenian Weekly 2017 Magazine Dedicated to the 102nd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

In these troubled times of change and transformation, it can be safely stated that humanity, outpaced by runaway technology, has already embarked on the untested, escapist road of virtual reality. Devoid of collective memory, the human experience would cease to exist. There would be no identity, no history, no culture, and above all, no language to speak of, since each word triggers the memory of a particular experience collectively encountered and defined over the millennia.

The ruins of Ani (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)

Perhaps this is the reason why, throughout history, rulers consumed with a pathological desire to obtain absolute control over their fellow men have resorted to manipulations of memory, by doctoring, or quite simply re-writing, history. The unbounded arrogance of the mighty leads them to believe that truth, as such, either is irrelevant, when in conflict with the exercise of unchallenged rule, or, that it simply does not exist! Thus, the academic pursuit of the truth, the venerated “VERITAS” upheld jealously by all centers of learning since the dawn of science and intellectual endeavor—along with history itself—becomes a casualty at the hands of tyrants accountable only to themselves.

The collective memory of the Armenian people spans several millennia. Almost every great, and not so great, civilization has, in some manner, left its mark on the soil and soul of our nation. We remember the past through our consciousness of shared experiences, and face our present problems in a manner that is based on who we are, on the self-image that our collective memory has rendered for us. And they are multitude, these problems that we have to solve now, as a nation still recovering from dependency, mostly scattered abroad, and struggling at home against political, economic, and social instability and the atavistic appetites of predatory neighbors.

Many of our present problems trace their origins to tragic events of a not-too-distant past, events that we are now being asked—nicely enough, to be sure—to stop remembering. A coterie, made up of “concerned” odars and “born-again” Armenians of all shades and colors, for a variety of reasons, keeps wagging a disapproving finger at “militant Armenians,” “Diasporan nationalists,” even “racists” for having “too long a memory for unpleasant events”—events that are better left to historians in the interest of a “normal” present and vacuous promises of a peaceful, brighter future in a “politically correct” world where sins are relative and values are measured by dollars and cents.

To begin with, this “request” tends to put the entire responsibility of scrubbing clean the fermenting gore of a monumental crime squarely on the shoulders of the descendants of the victims. Secondly, it tries to maneuver diplomatically the embarrassing and cumbersome “presence” of the Armenian Genocide—an ongoing crime, as long as it remains unattended through stubborn denial and refusal of proper restitution—into the realm of unresolved past events without the essential stamp of recognition that would legitimize it as an authenticated page of world history.

Thus, at a very vulnerable time in their long odyssey, the Armenians are being asked to curb their troublesome “long memory” and to forget an event that, according to the established denial-supported opinion, was never really assessed as genocide by the perpetrator and an array of supporters—“honorable” entities all, in a craven new world of “virtual” ethics.

It seems that, after persistently ignoring the screaming truth of an agonizing reality, which the Armenian nation experienced to the very limits of total annihilation, a “concerned” establishment is trying to relegate our people and their boundless trauma to the never-never land of annual memorials of a non-event—an “alleged” something, that, according to the deniers, never happened…

For a long time we were denied the truth; now we are being robbed of a place in reality itself. This time-juggling shell game, designed to cheat the Armenian people out of their legitimate rights and the promises earned during and after the Great War that spawned the genocide, cannot succeed because it ignores the present and its realities, and insists on dealing with an existing problem as a thing of the past, to be dealt with as a fading manifestation of a festering tribal memory.

Let’s take a good look at where the Armenians are and why. Let’s look at a historic homeland in the west, now mostly inhabited by non-Armenians or forcibly Islamized Armenians as a result of a well-documented act of a state-planned genocide which, as we speak, continues to bear fruit by gradually and inexorably assimilating hundreds of thousands of “remnants of the sword” into the very society and culture that has willingly executed this standing death sentence. Are the Armenians willing and ready to relegate this ongoing genocide of their ethnicity to the realm of “ancient history”? If they are not, they will surely be accused of being obsessed by “events that took place in the past” by the very people who express concern for our present and future.

In Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), which has been historically and culturally Armenian since time immemorial, a fistful of proud and freedom-loving people is being asked to submit to the rule of a neighbor whose entire history as a “nation”—amounting to all of…99 years—has been devoted to the destruction of the Armenian state (whose territory it now calls, “Western Azerbaijan”). Should the Armenian people accept such a “final solution” designed to bring the peace of the graveyard to Caucasian Armenia?

Interior frescos of the church of St. Gregory of Tigran Honents (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)

And finally, the Diaspora, spread from the Russian Federation to the most remote corners of the earth, contains some 6-7 million Armenians forced into exile, their chances of survival as a distinct cultural entity diminishing, as time goes by.

In the meantime, busy rewriting history, the obvious heir to the Ottoman Empire—the present Turkish state—continues to enjoy the bounty left to her by her genocidal predecessor, with the blessings of her powerful mentors, along with the imperial appetite for her neighbors’ historic patrimonies—an appetite she has yet to curb. On top of it all, Turkey today tries to buy her way into the den of former imperial powers with bribes of lucrative contracts for globally run predatory corporations, while still vehemently denying the veracity of the genocide, with its one and a half million Armenian victims, along with countless other members of its non-Turkic minority groups.

As we can see, on this 102nd anniversary year of the Metz Yeghern, what we, and the rest of the world, are being coerced into regarding and accepting as the past, is, in truth, the present, here and now—the ongoing coercive genocidal process of assimilating the remnants of the large, brutalized native Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia—affecting and threatening the future with more of the same attitudes that led to the genocide. What we are being asked to forget and forfeit is our present…and future.

As the saying goes, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat their mistakes. What is to be said of those who mistake the present for the past and erase it from their memory? What kind of a future, if any, could be in store for them?

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian is the former editor of the Armenian Review and director of the ARF and First Republic of Armenia Archives, based in Watertown, Mass. He has been a contributor to the Armenian Weekly for over 50 years. He currently directs the Publications Department of the Armenian Relief Society.
Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

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