Searching for Our Place in History

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

Almost a full century after the Genocide and 20 years after Armenia’s independence, Armenians around the world have been exploring the means to meet the challenges of history.

Through a carefully-planned agenda, with far-reaching consequences, the perpetrators of the Genocide have done such a thorough job that the survivors and their succeeding generations have not been able to regroup and develop a national ideology and a comprehensive policy to live as a modern nation in these most turbulent times.

In recent months and years, several ideas and projects have been offered, discussed and — inconsequentially left in limbo. All these movements seem healthy signs of survival and only history will decide whether they are viable endeavors or some steps that are too late and too little.

Some of the initiatives have come from Armenia and others are generated in the diaspora.

One such initiative was the principle of dual citizenship, which the Armenian government developed. Yet besides its sentimental value it hit a snag. Every Armenian would like to become a citizen of Armenia after dreaming about statehood for almost six centuries. But to achieve that goal, citizens of many countries of Armenian origin, most of the time need to renounce their current citizenship, because not all countries accept split loyalties. That is perhaps why very few Armenians used the opportunity to fulfill that historic dream.

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The principal is still there, the opportunity is still open, should any country begin minority restrictions or persecutions, Armenians in that country may opt to return to the homeland and take up Armenian citizenship.

Another movement was developed in the diaspora to bring many factions under one roof and to speak with one voice. That is an idea whose time has come, because Diaspora Armenians have many opportunities to pursue the Genocide issue and to engage in legal battles, attempting to take our usurped national wealth from Turkey.

The diaspora needs to speak with one voice not only with Turkey, but also with Armenia and with the international community. A movement, which began on a sound basis, needs follow up. Unfortunately, the movement had as many detractors as adherents, because a pan-Armenian movement may overshadow some egos and marginal agendas.

Recently, Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Hranoush Hagopian floated a trial balloon during a visit to Los Angeles, proposing a restructuring of the Armenian Parliament as a bi-cameral body, with a senate, including diasporan representatives, allowing Armenians living abroad to have a say in the government. Some quarters hailed the idea but others found it too hasty and not well thought-out. Some homework had to be done, some surveys taken and even a referendum held to find out if there was a place to amend the constitution and to allow such a conduit into Armenia’s internal affairs by Diaspora Armenians.

One important question remains to be answered: why was such a balloon floated in Los Angeles and not in Armenia? The other question, which will rise, is there a developed modality involving the diaspora into Armenia’s legislative system. Today Armenia’s government, in order to win over the diaspora, is showering rather profusely medals on meritorious and somewhat less meritorious Diaspora Armenians and the minister of the diaspora is not sparing her rich vocabulary to praise groups or individuals, sometimes overlooking a sad history.

If such an approach will be used to elect or invite senators from the diaspora, neither the individuals in question, nor anybody else will take that kind of involvement very seriously.

Last but not least, a proclamation was released in Paris on February 4, announcing the formation of a government in exile of Western Armenia. The proclamation has been issued on official stationary of “the government of Western Armenia.”

The proclamation has based the formation of the government in exile on certain historic facts beginning with the document issued by the Russian government on December 29, 1917 recognizing the independent government of Western Armenia and ending with a declaration by the UN on September 13, 2007.

The question arises whether the formation of such an entity contradicts or complements the other movements, essentially with the groupings who strive to organize the diaspora.

Observing all these formations one can hardly envision a general picture. Are these disjointed yet well- meaning activities or is there some cohesiveness to them?

Sectarianism seems to have become too deeply entrenched into our national psyche for us to be able to put together healthy ideas and come up with a comprehensive formula to organize the diaspora and to empower it as an extension of Armenia around the world.

Has the time arrived to find a common denominator for all these dreams and projects or are we still exploring our place in history? And for how long?

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