Letter to the Editor: Armenia Will Always ‘Feel Like’ Armenia…

Letter to the Editor

A view of Yerevan from the Cafesjian Museum of Art (Photo: Serouj)

Don’t have expectations of Armenia to make you feel a certain way. She doesn’t owe us any particular experience when we choose to visit…

In the article “Why Did Armenia Not Feel Like Armenia?” the author states that he has no answers to give to the disillusioned locals he comes across while in Yerevan. I would suggest—first and foremost—to change our own mindset, before advising others.

The importance of the type of mindset adopted by Diasporans with regard to Armenia cannot be overstated.

I urge us to see Armenia as our active partner, rather than as a distant charity case.

I urge us to see her as a burgeoning young state, with endless possibilities, and so much to offer to this world.

I urge us to be visionaries—to never stop in the face of discouragement, never surrender or lose faith when hitting a wall, never waver in our commitment to progress. Through this lens, we can see the potential for something great, even if it isn’t right in front of us just yet.

The author states that he doesn’t know what the future holds for “these people in Armenia,” and isn’t sure if anyone does. Yet, it is so clear that the people of Armenia, in cooperation with their brothers and sisters from the Diaspora, will determine their own future.

We see the power of their will through countless social and political movements that fight tirelessly against injustices.

We see it through great endeavors like the Ayb School, UWC Dilijan, the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, Impact Hub Yerevan, Birthright Armenia, and the many buzzing tech startups in the country.

We see it through the scores of willing repatriates ready to make an impact on Armenia’s development.

And the list goes on…

The Diaspora’s perception of Armenia must—as matter of survival—unequivocally reject feelings of hopelessness, defeatism, and gross oversimplifications.

I’m not advocating for naivety or ignorance of real issues that Armenia faces. However, progress doesn’t come easy, and we must be wholeheartedly committed to a positive mindset in order keep moving forward against all odds. Our shortcomings don’t define us; they push us to work harder and be greater.

I also visited Armenia this summer. Each of my visits—each with its own unique experiences— makes me fall more deeply in love with this country, which is—above all descriptions—ours.

Sanan Shirinian,
Orange County, Calif.




Sanan Shirinian

Sanan Shirinian is the Principal of Ari Guiragos Minassian Armenian School in Orange County. She earned her M.A. from Columbia University and is a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Shant Student Association.

Latest posts by Sanan Shirinian (see all)


  1. Կեցցէք…🌸🌷🎶👑
    Հիացած եմ, սիրելի Սանան, քո դրական է մօտեման համար…

  2. We have been to Armenia many times and we will go many more times. The people of Armenia are hospitable and kind. The country is full of culture and great history.

  3. One should not visit Armenia and view everything through rose tinted glasses, by doing so you are only making the situation worse. I was there during the April elections and the highly corrupt government is turning its nation into surfs, they bought the elections, everyone knows that, they also got their oligarchs to force their workers to vote for them, so that they can continue draining the nation of its wealth into their pockets. 30 percent of the people live bellow the poverty line, corruption is endemic and democracy is only a word. They have destroyed the old town pulling down the cultural centre of the city for their greed, robbing the citizens of their heritage. Oligarchs monopolise everything not allowing the ordinary working man and woman to progress and keeping them poor. Discussing the facts of reality is what makes democracies real, implying that you should not criticise Armenia or stating that if you no longer feeling its your Armenia is somehow wrong means that you are just ignoring the facts, thats up to you but you are doing more harm than good.

    • I agree. I visited back in March for the first time, and as a diasporan (Canadian) it was a cultural experience, and I enjoyed my time very much. Downtown Yerevan has many of the modernities that are found in most western and european countries, but when you leave the city and explore the rest of the country you witness a country that appears as if time has stood still. While the country is still young, only 25 years old, it’s clear that the regime isn’t doing its job. Roads are often rocky, and in poor condition. Public transit is either non-existent or very poor. There is no universal health care, and the higher education system is also lacking due to brain drain. Corruption is also rife, and it robs the people, so the smarter folks will leave and go to other countries where they can make more money. Societal problems are also endemic, the smoking rates are very high, and non-smokers appear to be the minority in the country. It’s common for everyone to smoke indoors as well, as a non-smoker the exposure to the constant second hand smoke can be overwhelming. That was the biggest shocker for me, that in 2017 you’d think people would know better.

      Now the other topic is the animosity towards Azerbaijan, people who are very similar to Armenians ethnically, however due to the war in Karabakh it has resulted in so many lost lives and the real cost is to the people of Armenia. Children get sent to war to die, while old men hold on to power. The regime would rather destroy the country just to hold onto power, rather then stop the suffering of the innocent residents of both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Why we even allow Armenia to be at war in this modern age is difficult to understand. The people do not want to be at war, they want peace, security, the ability to live a free, healthy life, with opportunities to work and create. The war has robbed the people, and it is insane to me how we still allow this to continue.

  4. Basically, Armenia is ally of Russia….Armenia have joint army with Russian Federation which is in general against USA…

    • HyeGuy99 you make a good case for examining serious problems with Armenia’s infrastructure, but your second point, in paragraph two is simply fallacious: Since the Karabakh War (1988-1994), Armenia’s political leaders have bent over backwards in the hope of obtaining a peace compromise, so desperately, that they’ve been willing to accept proposals that’d seriously compromise and do injury to Armenian territorial integrity, which stretches beyond Armenia’s current borders.

      Sometimes wars are unavoidable: Turkey flirts with Pan Turkic ambitions, and spends heavily to deny the Armenian Genocide — even trying to blame Armenians victims for their own deaths in the genocide. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s leadership makes periodic monthly bellicose threats against Armenia, even to the point of threatening to obliterate the very presence of Armenians, in Yerevan itself. Don’t blame Armenia’s government for going to war to defend its people. And, the economic blockade (against Armenia) is orchestrated by Turkey and Azerbaijan, because those countries want to reduce Armenia’s status to that of an Indian Reservation, in the USA.

    • Rasim, do you mean to say or imply that if, hypothetically speaking, Armenia had a joint army with USA which is, let’s admit so, in general against Russia, Armenia would prosper immensely? Folks, is it so hard to understand that ANY larger power-center, be it America, Russia or China, would tend to keep its smaller satellite states poor and dependable? Read history, please… Start with the Roman empire, then proceed to the Byzantine empire and so on. It was always like this: for a smaller nation-state any alliance with a larger nation-state meant partial or considerable loss of independence and sovereignty. Enough already…

  5. Armenia is beautiful, Armenia is rugged, Armenia is wild, Armenia is amazing.I had the wonderful fortune of living and working in that beautiful land for a year and a half. From Kadjaran to Ahktala and all in between. Stunning views of the Zangezur Mountains to the forests of Teghut I was astonished at it’s beauty.
    The people are incredible, the culture is soulful, and the food is simply incomparable.
    I love Armenia and go back at every opportunity!

  6. First of all Corruption is everywhere secondly all international independent observers approved of the last election in Armenia, do your study first. Let’s not forget Armenia has become independent only for 25 years. Criticizing to change for better is good and healthy but unfortunately there are people who only see half glass empty. I’m proud of what Armenia has accomplished for this short period of time. And I’m determine to see the glass half full and always help in any way I can to fill the other half empty.ԿԵՑՑԷ ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆ!!!

  7. A Hyeguy99……Glad that you have had the opportunity to visit Armenia and understand many of your observations, However, in your second paragraph you state, “Now the other topic is the animosity towards Azerbaijan, people who are very similar to Armenians ethnically…..”.
    I do not think that Armenians and Azeri’s are ethnically similar. Azeri’s are Turkic people, and not similar at all ethnically.

    Later, you stated, “Why we even allow Armenia to be at war in this modern age is difficult to understand.”
    I believe if stop fighting them, they will in turn, invade, annihilate, and occupy our homeland…..see the results of 1915 and its effects on Western Armenia, for a look at what would result from not defending against the Azeri actions.

  8. Hyeguy so a governmental change would stop azerbaijan attacks? Lol. You’re delusional. That liberal mentality that we’re the same as azeris need to die off, it’s idiotic. Only way to stop this war is to take down azerbaijan, or concede lands which then we risk getting massacred and a straight path to stepanakert, and who know what after that.

    • 100% Agree — he’s flirting with the devil. Armenia’s leadership has bent over backwards to obtain a peace compromise, to the point of risking the assets of a strategical advantage. If Hyeguy wants peace that desperately, then maybe the current government has more in common with him than he realizes. Armenia’s government is doing its duty for the preservation of its people and culture. The governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey have been behaving like rabid wolves, and should be confronted appropriately.

  9. Hi friends, thanks for the replies to my comment. Sorry I saw them so late.

    It’s naive and hugely hypothetical to propose a future where Armenia and Azerbaijan, along with Armenia and Turkey, can cooperate and act in peace with one another. There has to be opportunity for positivity and stability to come out of this situation. It is not as if Turkey and Azerbaijan will cease to exist in the future. We live in a modern age, and unless a superpower decides to invade and the entire international community steps aside to allow it – these countries are not going anywhere. It’s within Armenia’s best interest to find peace with it’s neighbours, to open borders, and allow trade.

    In my opinion, we should not have gone to war in the first place. Now, it’s too late for this. What is in the past is done, and Armenian’s are not exactly innocent. Internationally its agreed that both Armenian and Azeri’s have committed pogroms against one another. This is disgusting, and a vile representation of our own people. Reading about the failing of the USSR, maybe it’s too hypothetical to imagine an Armenia that did not rally around the idea of going to war immediately after the red curtain falling, but it’s still a situational conflict that – should it have been avoided – may have resulted in a radically different Armenia of 2017.

    As I said, what’s done is done, let us think about how to move past the point we are at now. We claim that we’ve won Stepanakert, and 110,000 people live there. Internationally, it is still considered Azerbaijan. For every country that goes on record to recognize the Armenian Genocide, where is the follow up also recognizing Artstakh as a sovereign nation? Do we think this recognition will happen in the next 20 years? Maybe 50? 100?

    The reality is that Armenia is looked upon as an aggressor, and the conflict still appears frozen to an average international observer, because it’s clear Armenia is on the losing side, and through attrition this process will continue. Azerbaijan is on a weapons buying spree, they are also militarizing Nakhchevan. Is Russia going to send it’s military into territory it considers Azerbaijan’s to help aid Artsakh in the event of a military take over? I’m honestly curious here on these topics and would like to understand what we think is the long term vision of holding onto these properties.

    Its going to take a long time to undo the racial hatred and animosity between both Armenians and Azeri’s even after we get to the point of opening borders and allowing governments to cooperate. When I saw the Armenians and Azeri’s are ethnic cousins, I still stand by this truth. Examine the Azerbaijani lifestyle and culture, and compare it that of an Armenian. Sure, there are difference, but in this modern age there is many things that are similar. Just like comparing a person from Canada and America, or between two different European countries. Focusing on differences is not furthering any process of adopting the idea of peace.

    I understand this topic is an emotional one, especially for those who live in Armenia, who have seen the war affect their lives in a much more personal basis then any diasporan, especially one who’s been born and raised in a rich country, can attest to. At the end of the day, peace is always better then war. Open borders and trade helps build a country, and working in harmony with your neighbours can be mutually beneficial.

  10. So, your idea is to denounce Garo Tashian, the author of “Why Did Armenia Not Feel Like Armenia?”, and his excellent article, which speaks only of his own opinions and personal observations, because you’d rather present an artificially hopeful portrait of Armenia, as if this is somehow honest or helpful to Armenian people, and you do all this while living in California? How very typically Armo of you, Sanan Shirinian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.