Confessions of an Angry Armenian

ARF-ER Central Committee Chairman George Aghjayan pictured during his remarks at a demonstration in Boston, Mass. on Oct. 2, 2020 (Photo: Knar Bedian)

Let us first understand that our enemies are smelling the blood of a very wounded Armenian nation. The once thriving Syrian Armenian community has been ravished by war. The significant Armenian community of Lebanon, once the lifeblood of the Diaspora, is now severely compromised in its capability due to economic and political crises. And last year’s Artsakh War has both crippled Artsakh and divided Armenia.

The battle over the sustainability, and even, viability of an independent Armenian nation is being waged on numerous fronts. Externally, Turkey and Azerbaijan continue to initiate open warfare and cultural destruction to wipe clean even the mention of Armenians and Armenia. Major powers pursue their interests in a way that subjugates the fundamental right of a people to live on their ancestral homeland, and Armenia’s diplomacy has failed to counter this approach or even show how Armenia’s interests complement these global interests. Internally, the current Armenian government has diminished a sense of nationalism and patriotism among Armenians.

All of these have a second confluence, the attack against the reputation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).

These attacks take on a series of related forms. First, there is the effort to separate all that is obviously and overwhelmingly good from the ARF. This takes the form of, “I support the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), but that is not the ARF” or “I support Camp Haiastan, but not the ARF,” etc. The obvious contradiction is unimportant to these agitators. All that matters is to, piece by piece, remove anything that enjoys significant popularity among the Armenian people or is respected outside the community from its association with the ARF.

The ideology and program of the ARF are also under attack. Since it is impossible to assail the Dzrakir, instead the attacks take the form of claiming current ARF policy is inconsistent with the founding principles of the ARF. Occasionally, these same propagandists will go as far as saying the claimed failures of today are in fact consistent with the claimed failures of yesterday, and thus, the ARF should never have enjoyed any significant support from the community. The corollary to this attitude is that only “they” uphold the traditions of the ARF and the party has lost its way or its time has passed. Thus, in fact, it is they who deem themselves the true ARF member.

The process is clear and the purpose unmistakable – remove what is undeniably good, attack what is debatable, vilify the current leadership and glorify the expelled. Another contradiction ignored by the agitators is these same expelled who are now glorified were previously vilified when they were still in the party. Similar logic is used to occasionally allow for the glorification of the now-deceased pantheon of ARF leaders. The message is clear: the only good ARF member is dead or has left the party. The destruction of the ARF and the resulting weakening of the Armenian nation is their sole objective.

The question that must be asked is with all these supposed failures and destructiveness, why is the ARF the only party that has withstood 130 years to remain a significant presence in Armenian political and community life? These are incompatible. In the face of such contradictions, we must take the physical evidence as the truth versus the hearsay of the malcontents. While it is impossible to list here all the accomplishments, or rather, positives that can be traced back to the ARF, it is unmistakable and undeniable that they do exist and to such an extent as to be overwhelming and unmatched.

It is natural and common to recognize and honor individuals who have served our communities during their lifetime. At these testimonials, it is customary to detail their numerous and worthy contributions to the relevant organization and community in general. It occurs to me that this misses the mark when it comes to the ARF. I do not see it as what individual members have given to the ARF, but instead what the ARF has given all of us. Personally, I will be forever thankful that the ARF has given me the outlet for what I feel most passionate about – the rights of the Armenian people everywhere and the pursuit of justice for the crimes committed against us.

The oath of an ARF member is serious and never taken lightly. At the moment of taking that oath, only one emotion is possible … only one thought … the willingness to sacrifice for our nation. The expectation is not that everyone will agree with the ARF, its policies or programs, but it is imperative to understand and convey a minimum amount of respect to a party that continues to instill the passion necessary to take such an oath for the Armenian people.

Do we need more examples than Cilicia, Kharpert, Garin, Daron, Vasbouragan, Nakhichevan and now Artsakh?

Today, the Armenian nation faces an existential threat. We should not be so deceived or confused. Turkey and Azerbaijan see a not-too-distant future where Armenia and Armenians do not exist. They openly and unashamedly claim our lands as theirs and actively work toward making that a reality. The result of Armenian lands falling under the control of these enemies has been made clear, even in the short year since the end of the last war. The lands will be wiped clean of Armenians, Armenian cultural sites and any evidence that Armenians once lived there. Do we need more examples than Cilicia, Kharpert, Garin, Daron, Vasbouragan, Nakhichevan and now Artsakh? After Artsakh will come Syunik and after Syunik will come Yerevan. Armenians would be wise to recall Martin Niemöller. To paraphrase, first they destroyed Sasun, and I did not speak out because I was not from Sasun. Then they destroyed Van, and I did not speak out because I was not from Van. Then they destroyed Artsakh, and I did not speak out because I was not from Artsakh. Now they come for Yerevan, and there is no one left to speak for me.

In the effort to weaken the resolve of the Armenian people in the face of this threat, we are being subjected from outside and within to a persistent attack against Armenian nationalism and patriotism and all those who uphold such ideals. The list is long: rewrite the history books; we must live with an unrepentant Turkey and Azerbaijan; through them, we will gain economic prosperity and physical security, etc. The naivete of the current Armenian government to ignore the lessons of our collective history is jarring. It is more important than ever today to resist such thoughts.

After Artsakh will come Syunik and after Syunik will come Yerevan.

For over 130 years, the ARF has successfully withstood such attacks, and the reason is clear. In times of crisis, it is the ARF which has stood firm and unwavering in its passionate support of the Armenian people and nation. In times of peace, the ARF has built the organizations and structures that have sustained our communities. It is undeniable that without the ARF in this region, tens of thousands of Armenians would have melted into the fabric of assimilated America. Those coming through the organizations making up the family of the ARF can be found everywhere in the broader community. It is the ARF that has nurtured this passion for 130 years and will continue to do so, and we should all be thankful for that.

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George Aghjayan

George Aghjayan is the Director of the Armenian Historical Archives and the chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States. Aghjayan graduated with honors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Mathematics. He achieved Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries in 1996. After a career in both insurance and structured finance, Aghjayan retired in 2014 to concentrate on Armenian related research and projects. His primary area of focus is the demographics and geography of western Armenia as well as a keen interest in the hidden Armenians living there today. Other topics he has written and lectured on include Armenian genealogy and genocide denial. He is a board member of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), a frequent contributor to the Armenian Weekly and Houshamadyan.org, and the creator and curator westernarmenia.weebly.com, a website dedicated to the preservation of Armenian culture in Western Armenia.

19 Comments

  1. Mr. Aghjayan,
    I am angry too … not because of your article but because I see so many Armenians running to their respective corners and playing a blame game. I respect your passionate endorsement of ARF. However, I have yet to hear a coherent and constructive plan about what should be done in post-war Armenia and Artsakh from ARF. I think ARF does a good job through the ANC in the US and around the world to organize and promote grassroots action in support of Armenian and Artsakh. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of ARF’s positive political role. If anything, the speeches of the likes of Ishkhan Saghatelyan and the reporting by Asbarez have recently only sewn discord and distrust among Armenians. The Civil Contract party has many shortcoming but the ARF with its antiquated 130-year-old strategy is worse. The only reason the ARF has lasted this long in it’s antiquated self is because we had no homeland from 1920 through 1991 and any internal discourse was impossible for our traumatized people. We need to grow up … ARF needs to grow up and play the part of a mature political opposition i.e. embrace the parliamentary system, scrutinize the cabinet’s policies and programs, participate in civic debate and hold the authorities accountable through elections and through the courts. No more obstructionism and talk of revolution.
    Sincerely,

  2. Unless we unite globally as a nation and people under one banner and we will again begin singing songs for freedom like we did for centuries. Fate has given us a chance to build a new and better Armenia and we are again being the self destructive people that we are making the same mistakes.
    We need a united diaspora under one banner, with only one goal, saving Armenia & Artsakh who are again facing destruction by our same old enemy the Turks.
    The enemy is well financed and much better prepared and organized than we are, money talks and *ull *hit walks, no one will us unless we start investing in the future of Armenia, and the diaspora is the only answer, not Russia, not USA not Europe, not France, we have to get used to not having any friends, there is no friendship in politics only money,and Azerbaijan is the best example, a rich ruthless dictatorship with a dictator who appointed his own wife as VP and the world just panders to his demands. So in short we need to unite globally and deliver $3B a year to Armenia in form of development and security funds without allowing the cothe corrupt politicians to touch them. A similar structure used by Israel has been very successful.

  3. George is absolutely right in everything he has said here. The worrying thing is of course, the indolence and blindness of the current Armenian government. Pashinyan is a most unsuitable leader who is more likely to make matters worse than better.
    All over the World, Islam is brutalizing Christians and others. The problem is that Christianity has lost its teeth, and now should be called Pacifism. Turning the other cheek does not work with Islam, they see it as weakness, which is exactly what it is.

  4. I am the proud grandson of an Armenian who came to NYC in 1892, helped found a Congregation church on 34th St, which is still active, moved to Newport, RI, and became a successful rug dealer, raised 5 quite successful children, 8 grandchildren. We are all very lucky to have had him in our lives

  5. Excellent article! Thank you for addressing the issue. I believe we need to be untied and ORGANIZED more then ever, no matter where we come from. Meg prountsk against the enemy!

  6. Unfortunately the ARF has lost credibility because ARF-Armenia has sided with corrupt, unpopular figures like Kocharian.

  7. A lot of us, Armenian-Americans are angry, frustrated and dont know where to turn when it comes to our homeland.
    One problem I see is that, in my experience, we are dis-organized. We have our various churches, social organizations. . .we gather for holidays, mostly religious, and for gala dinners. But, again, in my own experience, we dont sing our national anthem. Does everyone have this experience? Call me crazy, but I believe if we sang our National Anthem, Mer Hyrenik, more often, we woul remind ourselves of our homeland, have an emotional moment to express our love and honor of our beloved Hayastan.

  8. @Artin. Who can be worse than a lying populist who brought the nation to the precipice. Who can be worse than a person who drove the conflict into a full a blown war then lied continuously during the war that it’s being won only to utterly shock all Armenians with a disastrous defeat? Who can be worse than a dictator who criminalized all independent reporting during the war and only allowed government media to report on the war, ie lie to us freely. Who flaunts all the rules? Who can be worse than a negative leader who threatens others like a thug? Who can be worse than a leader who had irrevocably given away our lands, yes ours, those that our ancestors fought to call ours. Who can be worse than a leader that stripped any semblance of independence from the Armenian state and is begging Russia to take it so as to clinch protection from Russia. Who uses slogans of the west to appease the west but has turned Armenia into a police state where brute force and blackmail are the main tools to silence discontent. Who has made it impossible to get an even low level government job if you’ve ever expressed criticism. Who has been more divisive to Armenians? He has been another aghet on Armenians. With this backdrop you want to talk about ARF not being perfect?

  9. Timely article. It is the elite (intellectuals, political parties, business tycoons, etc.) that leads the nation. The last 3 and a half years testify that the Armenian elite as a whole, both in Armenia and in the diaspora, wasn’t sharp enough to lead the nation through the acute national security challenge it was bound to face. The record shows that through all the enthusiasm and noise (and impudence/hubris) brought by the revolution, a small group of intellectuals was able to see the dangers that the amateurish decisions and divisive discourse of this administration would bring upon us, and they were vocal in warning the Armenian nation to sober-up. This group comprised about 20 to 30 journalists, political analysts, military figures, former officials, ex-ambassadors, a few political parties that could be counted on fingers of one hand, etc. The ARF was one of them, it was able to see the train crash in slow motion but nobody was listening to its warnings. Countless articles, editorials, interviews testify to this. The ARF did all it could do, the Armenian people wanted otherwise.

    At this point it is important to record all this for history and maybe – if I’m to be optimistic – for lessons learned.

  10. The only reason there isn t any patriotism in Armenia is that the 75 years being under communism destroyed nationalism .Under communism religion and nationalism were forbiden . This is why all the new government leaders of today were brought up with those ideas. We must revive nationalism in Armenia .This is what Karekin Nejdeh meant when he said Tseghagron he meant the love of Nation and Faith. There is nothing wrong with Nationalism both of our enemies are nationalists. we must fight nationalists with nationalism We must have a one united world Armenian organization to work with Armenia ,and in America we must forget our divisions ,I have noticed that the Etchmiadzin community still have that old Ramgavar anti Tashnag attitude.

    • There was more nationalism during the Soviet period than today. Armenian culture was thriving during the Soviet period. It was the Soviet generation that built the genocide memorial complex in Yerevan, it was the Soviet generation that liberated Artsakh. It’s the “independence” generation, drunk with capitalism, materialism and American/Western pop culture that turned Armenia into a third world nation and lost Artsakh…

    • To Concerned Armenian:
      That soviet version of Armenia could only exist in the protected vacuum of the soviet union. Maybe because it was built and made of purely soviet nationalism with Armenian aesthetics – not the real old Armenian Christian values that preserved it for centuries before the Soviet Union came along. Once the Soviet union dissolved Armenians had nothing to follow except their current interpretation of modern materialism – they had lost their old Armenian Christian values long ago.

      I think we in the diaspora (who had to cling to our old traditions out of necessity in foreign countries) need to do better to get involved and help our Armenian brothers and sisters as best we can – if we can do it and if they will listen.

    • also, it was not only Armenians from Artsakh/Armenia who liberated Artsakh. Alot of Armenians from Syria, Beirut and elsewhere joined the fight. They made up a significant percentage of the liberation and alot of them sacrificed their lives for Artsakh.

    • Vartan jan,
      Tens of thousands of Soviet Armenians participated in the war of liberation. Can you name more than 3 or 4 Diasporan Armenians that actually fought in the war? Please stop with the fantasies.

  11. Time to focus our energy, passion, intelligence and money on Armenia, not our selves or the organizations that we personally belong to. Stop tearing down our leadership if you don’t have a better option that others buy into.

    • Agreed Al… Important to have a strong military for which Armenia needs to prosper. Political stability first and then focus on starting an industrial complex, promote more tourism, larger commerce, invite diaspora and foreign investors with attractive incentives to create jobs for people to prosper, have means to spend, pay taxes instead of drinking smoking complaining constantly…

  12. I appreciate this article which is basically in defense of ARF, but this party is being attacked for many good reasons. I’ve NEVER been a fan of Armenian political party feuds, fights, and even shameful mafia-style cowardly assassinations of opposition members… (Beirut 1950’s comes to mind as well as post-Soviet Armenia)… So I always pay attention to posted comments after I read Armenian issues articles. Not shocking to see a mini duplication of the grand division we Armenians are permanently infested or plagued by right here as well! Armenia today, a nation of under 3 million, is the home of OVER 70 political parties… 91, according to Eric Hagopian and 100 per Wikipedia! WHY? 19 in Artsakh alone! And with such a VAST array of choice, it is rather very disappointing and shameful for ARF to have backed a pro-Russia [Robert ‘Rubik’ Kocharyan], a known corrupt-to-the-bone marrow sub-human, rather than endorsing one of the more progressive nationalist pro-U.S./Europe parties like 5165 or Euro Party of Armenia, Ara Papyan’s Bever or Jirayr Sefilian’s Sasna Dzrer even if those didn’t stand a chance… So for this very reason, I also have a beef with the ARF And we all witnessed the appalling position of Kocharyan when his Arm. Alliance (the party he founded just THIS YEAR!) won 29 seats, 27% of the total seats in the National Assembly… He first contested the election results which got him nowhere. Then, despite being the leader, he declined to sit in one of these 29 seats next to his co-party members and be actively involved in the governing process. Afterall, that is what true PATRIOTS DO; contribute by any means made available, no? Clearly shunning this position as being ‘below’ him, as if there truly was such a level. He audaciously stated he was more used to the ‘Commander in Chief’ positions rather than a much lesser post such as a common National Assembly Member! “Ամեն ինչ լավա լինելու…” he said. Yes indeed, it was ALL OR NOTHING for ‘Rubik the slick’ to run his self-serving operations and back to business as usual… And talking about division, someone please explain to me what’s up with the feuds and constant disagreements WITHIN the ARF itself??? The Armenia ‘satellite’ branch vs Greece/USA HQ? Furthermore, divisions even within the diaspora ARF; Central Committee vs Regionals??? So it is rather hypocritical to hold the critical position of how Armenia now is divided. Which it truly is, but unlike the USA division of 2 parties, Armenia is divided into dozens of confusing directions, if not more! To start, the max number of political parties needs to come down to 4, 5 or 6.

  13. its the lack of good vigilant Armenian leadership which contributed to the Armenian Genocide (even TE Lawrence noticed and wrote about it). It is likewise that same lack of leadership that is plunging Armenia and the diaspora into a worsening crisis. We need intelligent brave focused leaders for once (not opportunists) in Armenia and the diaspora to work together who will bring the Armenians out of this crisis. I’m convinced Pashinyan is a unwitting puppet who needs to go before its too late – it may already be too late.

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