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.