Artsakh vis-à-vis the Diaspora

Recently, there has been a plethora of discussions in the Armenian community dealing with the Artsakh conflict vis-a-vis the Armenian government. Some Armenians are critical that many in the Armenian Diaspora did not volunteer and come to the defense of Artsakh. A February 2021 op-ed in the Armenian Weekly written by Apo Sahagian and titled “Our Useless Diaspora, Our Future Armenia” lamented and criticized the diaspora for failing to actively participate in Armenia and the Artsakh conflict. Sahagian’s article also implied that if you are truly an Armenian patriot, you should leave your diaspora homelands and re-settle in Armenia to keep Armenia strong and healthy. 

The Armenian Diaspora is not a failure. It is the Armenian Diaspora that is keeping Armenia alive through its various charitable organizations and political activity in their adopted countries to increase financial and military aid to Armenia. Yes, perhaps more Armenian young men and women could have volunteered and joined the Artsakh conflict. I remember my father and other young Armenian men who volunteered and joined the Armenian French Legion during WWI to fight the Turks in Palestine. It took several months of training to get there. How much could a volunteer train and do in a conflict that lasted only a few months? What military training would a young man or woman from the diaspora have prior to entering the Artsakh conflict? There are approximately two million Armenians residing in Russia. Did any of them volunteer to go and fight in Artsakh? As far as re-settlement in Armenia goes, if 100,000 or more Armenians from the diaspora came to live in Armenia, what jobs would be available to them in a country that has economic issues? What housing would be available to them in such a small country? How about the young people leaving Armenia for a better life elsewhere in other countries?

Several years ago, when I was on a border training assignment to Armenia from the United States government, I was told by the general in-charge of the Armenian border guards (i.e., customs) that Armenia’s biggest concern was the young people that wanted to leave Armenia. Israel exists today because the diasporan Jewish community used political pressure on the allies to establish the country of Israel. When that happened, Israel was settled in large part by the Jews who were refugees and homeless in Europe as a result of WWII. Not many in the United States Jewish community gave up their life in the US to settle in tiny Israel. But the Jewish diaspora made certain that Israel maintained its sovereignty with political and monetary support coming from their organizations, mainly from the United States. The Jewish diaspora has become an integral part of Israel’s existence. 

Armenia’s tragedy is that it occupies only about 15-percent of Armenia’s historical homeland. Artsakh is part of that homeland. The Armenian general had a map behind his desk showing the Armenian and Artsakh borders. He pointed to Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and said that it is part of Armenia and will always be part of Armenia. Hopefully, one day those lands will be reclaimed by Armenia. If that happens, it will be with the help of Armenians in the diaspora and the political influence they can exert with their adopted countries. In the Artsakh conflict, the western Christian countries could have given Armenia some military support but failed to do so. The Trump administration left Armenia to fend for itself. Let us not be too critical of each other’s views regarding the Artsakh conflict. We must remain united as Armenians whether we reside in Armenia or the diaspora. Unity will be our salvation. 

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Ezan Bagdasarian

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2 Comments

  1. Well observation. I my view Armenians need to come out of their enclosed shelled lives, give up the extreme hatred towards the Turks and Azerbaijanis especially and every thing non-Armenian generally. Fighting is the job of military people and not the common people. These are not the old days of fighting like the Persians and Romans or Persians and Arabs fought where number mentioned and common people were mobilized for the purpose of war. If that were the case Armenia might have done it, provided that the Azeri common people didn’t fight. I read hundreds of articles in these Armenian online papers all people give suggestions in free to overcome these overwhelming offs the country is currently faced with, yet astonishingly I have not seen a single article which might address the root cause of all this insecurity, uncertainty, despair, hopelessness, anxiety, poverty, corruption, unemployment, underdevelopment and the myriad of problems. The root cause of all this is the absence of true and lasting peace in Armenia. If Armenian achieved that peace by recognizing the country’s borders to the east and west and accept the integrity of those neighbours then the government will have Massey options other than relying on the already unstable Iran and Georgia and the superficial positive attitude to that countries would not be needed because deep down the Armenians hate these two neighbours as well. Why the leaders and politicians runs to beg the Russians to come to their rescue when one can’t protect one’s own borders why then start a fight in the first place. I know some people might find my words as bitter and I am sure the editorial board will not allow it to be published because only those are published which denigrates the neighbours and falsely glorifying Armenia thus creating a false sense of pride and greatness. My advise for all the writers is to atop giving these advices in free and start working to soften the extreme xenophobic society to start learning the art of compromise live and let live give up designs on other countries territories because no one is going to recognize tearing down territories from other counties. Millions of Armenians live in other counties and certainly more than those in inside the nearly empty country. Does this give the Armenians of Mersiel to claim it tear it from France and start calling it Mersakh and ask others to accept this became Armenians live there. This approach is not going to work. In many Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and UAE the foreigners outnumber the locals does this give them the right to expelled them and claim these counties. Once the Armenians decides that we need to establish genuine peace by concluding peace agreement with Turkey and Azerbaijan by recognizing their border, Armenia will have no need to rely on others for survival and security, this will result in flourishing of investment, business and trade which will greatly benefit the country and can also benefit from the energy connectivity projects this ending this extreme self isolation.

  2. I disagree with Mr. Ibrar’s comments. The so called “extreme hatred” towards the Turks and Azerbaijanis is NOT against those people personally but against their governments who are hell bent on destroying Armenia. Armenians living in an enclosed shell? Armenians for centuries have been systematically slaughtered by foreign invaders in their homeland. As far as the Armenians feeling insecure, uncertainty, etc., that is a ludicrous observation. The root cause given by Ibrar is a false premise. Armenians are survivors having suffered the killings of 2/3 of their population between the Hamidian massacres and the Turkish genocide of the Armenian people residing in the Ottoman Empire. The last war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was started by the Azeri’s who attacked Artsakh where 90% or more of the residents are Armenian. That territory has historically always been part of Armenia. It was Stalin who screwed the Armenians and drew borders where Karabagh and Natchkevan were to be autonomous territories under the control of Azerbaijan. To draw a comparison of Armenians residing in other countries trying to establish a homeland in those countries is another false premise. The Armenian homeland is in eastern Anatolia and the Caucuses, not in France, Russia or the USA. Respecting borders? It was Ataturk’s army that invaded Armenia in 1920 and took land away from the Armenian Republic and reduced Armenia to what it is today. Armenians do not have a false sense of pride and greatness. They have a genuine pride in their history and contributions to the world throughout their history. I’m sorry Mr. Ibrar, but your whole observation shows that you lack a complete misunderstanding of Armenia, the Armenian people and Armenian history. I suggest that you listen to a podcast called “The Great Crime” and hosted by a non-Armenian journalist and historian. I am glad that the Armenian Weekly believes in a free press and has posted your remarks, as distorted as it is.

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