“Yerkir” recently conducted the following interview (which has been translated into the English language) with Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau Chairman Hagop Der Khatchadourian regarding recent developments in Armenia and the Republic of Armenia Prime Minister’s meetings with the Armenian community during his visit to the United States.
Yerkir: Critical developments are unfolding in Armenia’s political scene. How would you describe the situation in brief?
Hagop Der Khatchadourian: It must be stated that we are deeply concerned about the current political situation in Armenia. The problems facing the country are mounting – from the problematic changes in the public administration system, to the explicit pressures applied to the judicial system, the announced and still unfulfilled steps regarding the country’s economic policy, and, in recent days, the resignations – and anticipated resignations – of the country’s security and intelligence agency leaders.
Yerkir: On several occasions, Prime Minister Pashinyan has spoken about the need for a pan-Armenian agenda. What is the ARF’s position on that?
H.D.K.: Developing a pan-Armenian agenda is a welcomed idea. We have long considered it an imperative and consistently worked towards that end. However, it’s not enough to announce the need to formulate a pan-Armenian agenda; you must demonstrate corresponding will and attitude to get it done. The Prime Minister’s behavior of pointing out or creating divisions in everything and amongst everyone in society does not–cannot–help in the development of a pan-Armenian agenda.
Only through healthy dialogue and an atmosphere of consensus is it possible to bring about a unified agenda and organize the resources of the Armenian nation around that agenda so that we can address the challenges facing the country.
Yerkir: The authorities’ actions and activities point to tumultuous times ahead. What are your views on that?
H.D.K.: We cannot fail to mention that there are serious gaps between the statements and the actions of the present-day Armenian authorities. Their misguided steps and actions do not contribute to creating a constructive atmosphere and building national solidarity. It is particularly alarming to see the attempts to divide the public into enemy camps, to create internal divisions, to violate state institutions and to question our national values and symbols. The ongoing demagoguery, the intolerance of dissent, the practice of imposing one’s personal will on others, problematic policies of personnel, the lack of a clear vision and planned approach to overcoming the numerous challenges facing the country, the noticeable uncertainty and missteps in foreign policy – all of these can destroy the achievements of last year’s popular movement, once again fostering public disappointment and hopelessness.
The authorities have yet to realize that they are ultimately responsible for governing the country and cannot act like destructive opposition. The authorities should exclude autocratic tendencies and extra-constitutional steps. We have repeatedly stated that the past–that chapter in our history–is closed. For us, that implies to stop the return of the reprehensible phenomena that began in the Levon Ter-Petrosyan era. Naturally, past mistakes should be rectified according to the letter and the spirit of the law. However, justice cannot be restored by selectively digging into the past. Moreover, the effort of correcting past mistakes–the biased effort–cannot, in and of itself, record progress for the country. On the contrary, as we are all sadly witnessing, that behavior is creating new problems for the country. We must be guided by a clear vision of the future, without forgetting the mistakes–all mistakes–of the past.
Yerkir: The Prime Minister has stated on various occasions that the “revolution” that took place in the Homeland last year should also be brought to the Diaspora, along with organizational-structural changes. What is your interpretation of the Prime Minister’s views?
H.D.K.: It is indisputable that Diaspora structures, like state structures, should always be open to reform and adapt with the times. However, the Diaspora is not a state, and when speaking, thinking and planning about the Diaspora, that reality should be clearly understood.
When a state holds elections, barely half of those who have the right to vote, and often even less than that, participate in the electoral process, and it is the political forces which receive the majority of the votes that come to power. Actually, they receive the support of a minority of the people entitled to vote. However, no one questions their authority – whether it’s on the national or local level. Similarly, you cannot say that the membership of the main Diaspora organizations–church, political party, youth, sports, cultural or charitable organizations– constitutes barely 10 percent of Diaspora Armenians, therefore there is no contact with the other 90 percent. You have to look at how an important portion of that 90 percent participate in the Diaspora’s organized activities. There is no need to offer examples here. Also, it should be mentioned that over the last several decades, leading Diaspora organizations have found ways to cooperate – particularly in the absence of the “divide and conquer” policies left over from the Soviet era or, conversely, with impetus provided by the Armenian state.
The Armenian government, under the pretext of creating new structures, should not destroy the Diaspora’s large pan-Armenian structures, structures without which the basic foundations of preserving Armenian identity, namely networks of schools and clubs or community centers would not exist. Moreover, the initiative to restructure the Diaspora should come from the Diaspora itself. The state should not initiate such an effort. The state can and should act as a supporter of such initiatives, but not the initiator.
Yerkir: The Prime Minister is scheduled to meet with Armenian communities in several cities across the United States. What are the expectations in this regard?
H.D.K.: Setting aside our opposition to the current authorities in the Republic of Armenia, on the external front, the ARF has always worked to raise the reputation of our country. This case is no different. Our local structures are participating in the welcoming receptions for the Prime Minister and, when possible, will convey our party’s concerns and suggestions regarding developments in the country and, more broadly, our pan-Armenian agenda. We hope that the Prime Minister will not disappoint his Diaspora audiences.
Even during the Soviet era, we have always said that authorities are transient, but the state and national interests are permanent. It is with this understanding that, yesterday, today and tomorrow, regardless of our political stance and relations with the authorities, as a pan-Armenian network and structure, the ARF has set “red lines” for itself and has never, and will never, be guided by narrow party interests and dictates of the moment. It is the ARF’s fundamental belief that Armenia is the home of the Armenian nation and the foundation of its struggle for existence.