‘Tebi’ or Not ‘Tebi’ (Yergir)? That Is the Question…

By Mari Tikoyan
University of Maryland, Class of 2018
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Participant, 2017


Should all Armenians go Tebi Yergir*?

The idea of Armenians moving back to Armenia has been a heavily discussed topic in the Armenian community. During my time interning for the Armenian National Committee of America, I have come across Armenians who have completely opposing opinions on this issue. Some people believe that every Armenian must move back to strengthen Armenia and preserve Armenian culture. Others have no desire to move to Armenia and enjoy living in the Diaspora. My summer in Washington has allowed me to finally answer this question for myself.

A view of Yerevan from the Mother Armenia monument. The twin peaks of Mount Ararat are in the background. (Photo: David Sullivan)

During my first week in the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Program, I got into a discussion about Tebi Yergir with a fellow intern. My colleague basically argued that all Armenians should move back to the homeland because assimilation is inevitable and one must take the appropriate measures to strengthen and preserve our culture. I thought long and hard about this concept; I even pictured how life would be if I picked up everything and decided to move to Armenia. After imagining such scenarios, I realized that the idea of moving to the Yergir may not be for me.

The Armenian Diaspora brings so many benefits. It is one of the greatest sources of strength for Armenia. Some overlook the benefits, and even go so far as to argue that Diasporans are “not real Armenians.” In my case, being a Diasporan Armenian has only strengthened my desire to maintain my history and culture.

From an early age, I joined almost every Armenian youth organization imaginable. I was involved in AYF and ACYOA, and I went to Armenian school. I would drive about an hour into a different state just to go to an Armenian church. I would drive about an hour just so I could get together with my Armenian friends from the DC area. I would spend countless weekends at Armenian events, and I always longed for those weekends with my Armenian friends.

ANCA Leo Sarkisian Intern Mari Tikoyan with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), one of two U.S. House members of Armenian descent.

Yes, my Armenian may not be the most fluent, it may take me a while to read a sentence in Armenian, I may not hang out with my Armenian friends as frequently as others, I may live in a smaller Armenian community, and I may not have a desire to spend my life in Armenia. However, I have always gone the extra mile to maintain my Armenian heritage. I have always been proactive in keeping my connection with the Armenian community. I want to give back and help contribute to making Armenia a better place.

So, when I hear some argue that Diasporan Armenians do a terrible job of maintaining Armenian culture, I cannot help but get frustrated. Being Armenian is so much more than knowing the language, knowing every bit of Armenian history, and wanting to live in Armenia. Being Armenian is about embracing your Armenian background, informing those around you of our struggles as a nation, and working to create a better Armenia for those in the generations to come.

Interning for the Armenian National Committee of America has taught me just that. The ANCA works tirelessly to bring Armenian issues to the forefront, to support the Armenian Cause, and to help create a better Armenia. The ANCA has reaffirmed my faith in the Armenian Diaspora.

Working on various projects this summer with supporters from across the US, I have seen the commitment, the passion, and drive our community members demonstrate to strengthen the Armenian Homeland.

I’ve witnessed the benefit of the Armenian Diaspora throughout my entire life. Had I not been the sole Armenian in my high school, none of my classmates would have known about Armenia or Artsakh. If I did not live with non-Armenian roommates in college, they would have never heard about the Armenian Genocide or had the chance to attend the annual protest in front of the Turkish Embassy. If Aram Hamparian was not in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence on May 16, iPhone in hand, people may never have seen the brutal beating of peaceful protesters by Turkish President Erdogan’s bodyguards.

I am forever grateful to live in the Diaspora because I have the chance to educate those around me and bring awareness to Armenian issues. So, no, I do not think one must go Tebi Yergir to preserve Armenian culture. Just one look at the dedicated Armenian communities around the globe serves as enough proof that the Armenian diasporas are alive and well—and that they play an important role in the life of the Armenian nation.


* “To the Homeland,” a recent slogan signifying returning to or going to the Republic of Armenia. It is based on the same slogan from the 1890s, referring to Eastern Armenia-based Armenian revolutionaries’ efforts to liberate Western Armenia, which was under Ottoman-Turkish rule. That slogan was, in turn, patterned after a campaign of “Going to the People” in the 1860s by the Russian socialist-democratic revolutionary organization Narodnaya Volya (“The People’s Will”), an organization that heavily influenced Armenian revolutionaries.

9 Comments on ‘Tebi’ or Not ‘Tebi’ (Yergir)? That Is the Question…

  1. avatar PAUL BARDIZBANIAN // August 4, 2017 at 11:12 am // Reply


  2. avatar Annie Bakerdjian // August 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm // Reply

    I completely agree with Mari. I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, went to Armenian school up to 4th grade and also lived in Milan, Italy for 9 years, Montreal, Canada for 7 years and have been living in South Florida for the past 38 years. I have educated people I came in contact with during my life about Armenia and our rich culture. So many people had never heard of Armenia and Armenians!

  3. avatar Vahe Baloulian // August 4, 2017 at 4:06 pm // Reply

    Respectfully disagree with you, Mari. Make Armenia stronger by moving to Armenia, bringing your skills and knowledge, changing the way the country develops, and you will not need to teach anyone about who we are and where we are coming from. They will know it. People of Denmark or Austria, for example, don’t need to live around the world so that their classmates and colleagues would learn about their countries and nations.
    With a strong and healthy country behind you, you can travel and live anywhere without the associated guilt and without asking Tebi or Not Tebi. But this country must be built first.
    History shows that Diaspora is useless when it comes to positively changing the situation in Armenia as it is largely complicit with the corrupt government officials. Diaspora largely failed to use its considerable resources, financial and otherwise, to meaningfully make Armenia a stronger country by educating its people, by building healthy businesses, by promoting honest political discourse locally, etc.
    Therefore, dear Mari, my family and I answered your question with a definite Tebi. There is nothing sacrificial about our move. We enjoy living in Armenia even though I’m disgusted with social unfairness and nation-destroying actions of Armenia’s politicians and their local and Diasporan goons.

    • agree with Vahe. State of Israel does not support ideas like this expressed by a Jew , who lives in New York.

  4. Beautifully described, well done to the young lady. Being passionate of who, where and what your background is part and parcel of being an Armenian. Well done young lady.

  5. Its like an Italian married to a 1/8 Navajo eating spagetti speaking English pretending to be Italian. Once you loose your language the soul of your race can no no longer be communicated to you. You may pretend you are anything based on your genetics you know, but once your language is erroded from you and your family you are no different then some other American who is interested in Armenian art, music, history. Attending meetings from Armenian organizations is an emotional way of handeling ones guilt of assimilation by the hands of their aggressor. Very organized and it feels you are doing something by getting together with same skin color people speaking the Queens tongue getting away from your roots and soul. Please stop advertising you dont need Armenian to stay Armenian. Our language is our soul and was before Jesus showed up. From which point we have been worn down as a race. Thanks the all the organizations who pretenda Armenian, keep our culture from expanding at the hands of the aggressors against our people. Lalala, lets eat kebob, dance shalakho and speak English the whole time and preened we are the same as our anccestors. 🤞🏼Good luck. Organized enemies count on liberalisim to destroy and errode the bit we got left. Dont be fooled by populer, modern, liberal thinking. Our history is clear. Young lady have 5 kids to perpetuate your race. Stop having meetings with other English speakers why your version of Armenian should be acceptable as a good Armenian and teach young generations how to assimilate faster. Stop it. If You dont speak Armenian, call yourself what you speak. Stop pulling others down with you with your assimilated thinking, and reasoning around your genetics with loss of you mother tongue. Instead of pride, writing this in English, I feel shame. How about you author? You feel a misplaced pride? Just because you are discussing important things you deserve an applaud ?right?, wrong. You are an assimilatior. Your next generations will not be any better off as Armenians then you, Pretending you belong to something. Armenian is gone when your language is erroded by the aggressors language through shame and alienation. Stop feeling small learn your language, your mother tongue so you dont have to bring examples of meetings you attended to show your roots. Speak from your roots.

    • Absolutely correct Rojeh!!don’t get me started on the corrupt state the “Armenian” diaspora organisations are. they only blame on what happens inside the Fatherland.. getting out of the water in dry shape!they only operate under whatever given foreign country dictates them to right or do. 80% is all about getting a “non profit” certificate to launder millions. that’s a fact.

  6. I have traveled to Armenia each summer for the past 3 years, and am developing an ongoing medical outreach program there. I believe we diasporan Armenians (and I am absolutely Armenian, regardless of my level of skill with the language) can do more for Armenia as a diaspora than if we moved there permanently. Armenia does not have the infrastructure to support the increased population if the millions of us tried to immigrate! And the resources I have as an American allow me to do much more than I could if I lived there. I believe the support of Armenians around the world has helped the republic survive against the odds for the past 25+ years.

    Let us each do what we can, from wherever we can. If possible, travel there, see our homeland, and support its growing tourist industry — Armenia could definitely benefit from the cash inflow. The homeland will NOT benefit from us fighting with each other.

  7. Սեվ սրտի մխիթարանք է։ Տվէք գեթ մի որևե ազգի բանաստեղծ կամ մտածող, որը գոնէ մեկ տող գրել և գովաբանել է օտարի մեջ ապրելը։ իհարկե չեք գտնի։ էկեք ինքնաթմրեցումով զբաղվելուն վերջ տանք։

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.