Now more than ever, we, as Armenians – be it in the Diaspora, Armenia or Artsakh – are faced with a difficult reality. We look to our own compatriots in search of both blame and resolve. Our enemy capitalizes on our own division. These precarious times following the defeat in Artsakh have become the most defining moment in our recent history. Amidst the innumerable voices providing us with constant – often defeating – information, there exists only a few outlets for reality-based commentary. Beyond just commentary, what is most critical at this time is a guiding voice to bring us toward tangible results. Perhaps no individual is better qualified to be such a voice than former Human Rights Ombudsman and current Minister of State of the Republic of Artsakh, Artak Beglaryan.
On Sunday in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the local Armenian community gathered to hear Beglaryan speak. The crowd consisted mainly of Armenians from a generation that has witnessed three wars in Artsakh, a generation which has benevolently contributed to the support of Artsakh and Armenia, and yet often asks why they see few results. This source of frustration for many was addressed candidly by Beglaryan as he introduced more realistic frameworks for action.
Beglaryan began with a quick overview of some statistics. Pre-war, the official population of Artsakh was upwards of 150,000. Today, we are looking at a population of 120,000 with 40,000 displaced (two-thirds of whom are now in Armenia), and a frontline that went from 200 kilometers to now 500 kilometers. He then provided insight towards what is required of all of us, in both a short- and long-term sense, for the preservation of Artsakh.
Beglaryan succinctly categorized the different facets of Artsakh’s state of affairs into a list of five critical components.
Most critical to this discussion was understanding what remains of Artsakh today. In order of priority, Beglaryan named security, sustainable economic development, demographics, education and reliable governance as primary concerns. When we consider the most practical perspective – preserving Artsakh at all costs – it should be no surprise that the improvement of any one of these components relies first and foremost on security. More importantly, however, was Beglaryan’s frankness towards our vulnerable reality. The presence of Russian peacekeepers is admittedly crucial in the short term. He emphasized the concept that ‘time is money.’ Since the presence of Russians in Artsakh is on a timer which will continue ticking unless there is policy renewal, we must not disregard economic development, followed by sustained and positive demographic trends. Beglaryan maintained an air of confidence that despite the losses in Artsakh’s economic infrastructure, there are asymmetric solutions, ones that call on the involvement of the Diaspora in a capacity beyond the present status quo.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the evening was an attendee’s question about the efficacy of the Diaspora’s support of Artsakh and Armenia, highlighting today’s diasporan lack of trust in Armenian and Artsakh governance. To this, Mr. Beglaryan highlighted the reality of the Diaspora’s shortcomings—a desperately needed moment for reflection. While members of our community undertake admirable philanthropic endeavors, pouring money into infrastructure development and surface level projects, we have failed in what is most important. In our increasingly interconnected world, we have failed to integrate our efforts with those who live and breathe in our homeland. For three decades, we did not take enough time to teach our compatriots what we have had the privilege to learn. For three decades we failed to facilitate a lasting relationship between the Diaspora and those who are the fabric of our national identity in Armenia and Artsakh.
Point being, there is no room for “giving fish, but [instead we must] teach fishing,” said Mr. Beglaryan.
Thankfully, these shortcomings were not presented without result-oriented solutions.
Beglaryan went on to articulate what must resonate – and has for centuries resonated – with all Armenians: the “five qualities” necessary for our long term struggle. In concise terms, these qualities are self awareness, unity, perseverance, strategic thinking and a service-oriented mindset.
Particularly over the last year, we have frequently allowed our emotions and ambitions to supersede these qualities. As a result, the most critical aspects of our struggle are drowned out. Our current situation allows no room for emotionally-driven responses. As one analyzes these qualities, it becomes increasingly apparent that they are fundamental to any efforts to further our cause. From security and economic development in the long term, to resolving the humanitarian crisis and legitimizing governance in the short term, we must first look to ourselves as individuals.
Mr. Beglaryan stressed the need for self-reflection as a prerequisite for action.
Ask yourself, what are your strengths? Or more importantly, what are your weaknesses? Visualize your place and orient it toward our national goals.
Where do you stand in the context of the physical and developmental fabric of our homeland? Will your own frustrations and dispositions allow you to turn your back on your compatriots, in spite of an administration you do not align with?
Our allegiance is to our people, our identity and our land; all of which countless martyrs have made the ultimate sacrifice for. We owe it not only to our martyrs, but to the men and women of Artsakh and Armenia who, despite their own intense frustrations, are the tip of the spear. Each of us as individuals must identify a mission, a mission that is without any fantastical or ambiguous goals, but bound to the reality before us and tailored to one’s skills. Above all, remember that the struggles we are enduring during this time give us a higher purpose to fulfill.
Until we come to terms with this, we risk tripping on our own feet and falling further into exactly what our despotic enemies dream of.
This is the message from Artak Beglaryan, a message from Artsakh.
Do not read this as a haphazard call for unity during a time that, without doubt, demands high levels of accountability toward one another and the political institutions in place, but instead as a call to service from a man who has lived through and dedicated his life to the harshest realities of our nation’s contemporary struggle.
Our potential has been outlined, and without a tactful and brutally realistic approach, we risk a momentous failure. How we as a collective people, and as individuals, demonstrate our potential is what will define our future. Now more than ever, it is time to mobilize, but above all we must know ourselves and do so with clarity.