September 21, 2021 is the 30th anniversary of the Third Republic of Armenia. The present state of Armenia is the resumption of the preceding two republics. In the years 1918-1920, statehood was regained with the creation of the first independent Armenian state since 1375. A small, landlocked, poor remnant of historical Armenia, devoid of natural resources, a land of refugees and epidemics, this First Republic became the nucleus of present-day Armenia.
The close alliance of Turkey and Bolshevik Russia in the early 1920s led to the collapse of the First Republic. Turkey with its invading force, and the Red Army, aided by local communist sympathizers, advanced into Armenia on November 29, 1920 and set up a Soviet regime which lasted from 1920 to 1991. This period is known as the era of the Second Armenian Republic.
Present-day Armenia, the Third Republic, is just a tiny part of historic Armenia. Its size is 29,800 square kilometers, or 11,506 square miles, and is situated in the south Caucasus, or Transcaucasia. It is bordered by Georgia on the north, on the east by Azerbaijan, on the south by Iran, and on the west by Turkey and the Azerbaijan enclave of Nakhichevan.
Historic Armenia, at its height of power (1st century BC) stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It had an area of about 240,000 square miles. The Third Republic represents only 4.8 percent of historic Armenia and is only one-sixth of the Armenian territories delineated by the Treaty of Sevres by President Woodrow Wilson. Only 30-percent of the Armenian people live in Armenia, while the rest live in the Diaspora.
Looking back retrospectively, Armenia has been one of the cradles of human civilization. Historic Armenia is where the Garden of Eden was. The Bible informs us that Noah’s Ark landed on the summit of Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4).
Mount Ararat, which Armenians also call Massis, with its twin-peaks as the Greater and Lesser, stands sentinel over the heartland of Armenia. It has been a symbol of Armenian identity and a source of inspiration for the Armenian poets and artists throughout ages.
Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was founded in 782 BC. The Armenians were there when mankind’s earliest thinkers were formulating their thoughts in that cradle of civilization.
Located on one of the strategic crossroads of the ancient and medieval worlds, Armenia has been a bone of contention for many nations. It was occupied by the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Mongolians, the Turks and the Russians. Thus, throughout their history, the Armenians have lived in perpetual conflict between national survival and national subordination and have suffered cruelty at the hands of mightier powers. But despite their sufferings, not only have they managed to survive and thrive, but also have developed a rich and distinctive culture.
Speaking of the Third Republic, it must be stated that the past 30 years of independence have been a “mixed score.” On the positive side, the Republic of Armenia has made every effort to consolidate its independence. Full membership was attained in international forums. Economic reforms were made to ensure smooth transition from the old system to a free market economy. Land reforms were made. Reforms in industry, trade, banking, services and other spheres have been introduced.
On the negative side, there are some concerns on the free and democratic process in elections. There has been widespread corruption in the government. There is an increase in disparity on the economic and social levels. But the exodus of Armenians from Armenia presents an even more serious problem. Since 1991, approximately 2.5 million Armenians are reported to have emigrated abroad. With its population dwindling steadily, the question is whether the Armenian army will be large enough to defend its borders.
The most devastating problem presently, however, is the outcome of the Artsakh war, which was initiated on September 27, 2020 by Azerbaijan and Turkey against Artsakh and Armenia. Tragically, the 44-day war resulted in the deaths of thousands of soldiers, civilians and young Armenian conscripts, the destruction of numerous homes, schools, hospitals and institutions, and the transfer of seven districts of Artsakh to Azerbaijani control. These tragic events have disrupted many Armenian lives. Needless to say, many are confused, angry, depressed and frustrated. Some feel it is a hopeless situation.
hope has been one of the striking phenomena in the collective experience of the Armenian people
Undoubtedly, the situation is serious, but not hopeless. Anyone who studies Armenian history will notice that hope has been one of the striking phenomena in the collective experience of the Armenian people. Throughout Armenian history, hope has manifested itself in political and national movements, exploding in a way that cannot be contained. Much of what we are taught by Armenian history supports this idea even in the face of unspeakable evil like the Armenian Genocide. Central to inextinguishable hope of this kind is the concept that the greatest traumas can be overcome. The story of the survival of the Armenian people is its chief testament. Just by being here, then, the Armenian people are evidence of hope.
After the catastrophic defeat in Artsakh, the Armenians must get up and look straight to the future with hope and confidence. At the same time, this event should give them wisdom to take a hard look at missed opportunities and plan for a better outcome in the future. All Armenians must stay vigilant. They must stay united to plan for the future. In the past, when they stood together they were able to achieve great things through unity.
Despite all of these difficulties, however, the Republic of Armenia has been growing and prospering the past 30 years and has become the actualization of the dream that a people without a land—and a land without a people—would be reunited.
We pray that God will protect the Republic of Armenia and keep our people filled with grace and reinforce them with faith to live and work for the love and wellbeing of our homeland.