Interview with Panos Titizian, Veteran ADL

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By Sarkis Majarian

The name Panos Titizian is a familiar one, from Lebanon to America. He has been active for more than 60 years as a leader of the Democratic Liberal (Ramgavar) Party and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. In virtually that same period, he has contributed articles to the ADL, as well as independent Diasporan Armenian press, with totally unique interpretations and analyses of issues of concern to the Armenian people and internationally, particularly as regards Armenian-Turkish relations. Titizian recently visited New York and New Jersey, where he met with leaders of local institutions and organizations. This interview reflects his impressions of those meetings.

Sarkis Majarian: Mr. Titizian, what was the purpose of your recent visit to New York and New Jersey?

Panos Titizian: The visit was occasioned by my long-held intent to write my memoirs about my involvement in the public life of our nation. More accurately, through those memoirs, I wish to touch upon the important events having taken place mostly in Lebanon during the past 50-plus years, the role of a certain segment of the community in those events — a certain circle, which included the ADL Party, the AGBU and the neutral bloc. I was aware of the fact that if I didn’t undertake such an effort, it would be a great loss, first for me, and then for our circles. That’s because whatever isn’t put down on paper evaporates. I’m probably the last survivor among those leaders who have since passed on.

SM: The first step of the interview was taken. What do you have to say about that?

PT: Yes, that step was taken. The interview took place with my longtime friend, Hagop Vartivarian, at his home in New Jersey. The first part of our interview was devoted entirely to the sociopolitical environment of the Middle East, from the end of World War II down to the present. After all, it was the Middle East that served as the stage for the reestablishment and renaissance of our Diasporan-Armenian life.

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On this occasion, it is a pleasure for me to say a few words about Hagop Vartivarian. The six to seven volumes of his Hantiboumner [meetings], containing interviews with dozens of Armenian writers, intellectuals, community activists, clergymen and others, have not only created great interest in Armenian circles but have also added a whole new dimension to the social history of the Armenian Diaspora.

It was a delight for me to once again confirm that Hagop is an erudite individual with wide interests, an active person who has his finger on the pulse of Armenian life. He’s not only active but practical-minded. He is the driving force behind practically all our undertakings on the East Coast. One can say he’s a dynamo.

SM: Naturally, you had meetings to take practical steps and reach decisions in that regard.

PT: Yes. Let me say that I put forth effort toward this end a year ago. I contacted people in Beirut, for someone to research and bring to the surface everything which I have written and has been published. I also gave a rough deadline and promised to pay whatever was required but nothing serious was done, despite the promise made to me. Faced with such a situation, I thought that perhaps it would be best to go to the East Coast and see my old friend Hagop Vartivarian, who has become somewhat of a specialist in the area of interviews. I figured that the interviews I had with him could successively be rendered in article form for public consumption, and then be compiled in a book. This was the main purpose of making the trip. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I also wanted to see Berge Setrakian, president of the Central Board of Directors of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, with whom I have been closely connected for more than four decades. Moreover, I have endeavored, along with him, to make my modest contribution to certain important AGBU projects. These two aims led me to New York.

SM: Very well. So, first you met with Mr. Hagop Vartivarian and then Mr. Berge Setrakian.

PT: When I set out, these two appointments had already been previously made. After I arrived at Newark Airport in New Jersey, Hagop Vartivarian took me to my hotel and “ordered” me: “Wash up right away and relax. I’ll come back in 30-45 minutes, get you and together we’ll go to an event.”

SM: What event?

PT: I didn’t know what the event was. Hagop was in a hurry (Hagop is always in a hurry, going from one engagement to another). When we went to the event [held at the Hovnanian School in New Milford, NJ], I found out that one of our historical monuments, St. Giragos Cathedral, in Dikranagerd is to be renovated, and that the Turkish government has given permission for its renovation and consecration. This then was what the event was all about, and it was a very solemn affair, at that.

SM: Who organized that event?

PT: It was organized by the Dikranagerd Compatriotic Society. I must say that I got the impression that there were quite a few natives of Dikranagerd and/or descendants thereof in attendance. Furthermore, present were some rather influential and successful individuals, who had been able to assemble not only our religious leaders — I have in mind chiefly Archbishop Aram Ateshian, patriarchal vicar of Constantinople, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America — but also a dozen or so benefactors, who have made names for themselves and enjoy a fine reputation not only locally but also in national circles, and who have mostly served the Holy See of Echmiadzin. These were benefactors who belonged to the AGBU as well as the Knights of Vartan, and they were attending this event, whose objective was to secure funds for the renovation work of the Dikranagerd Cathedral.

SM: Mr. Titizian, how do you explain the Turkish government’s granting of this permission?

PT: Explaining the objective hidden behind this and similar permissions granted by the Turkish government can take us far afield. It is necessary to put the explanation of this matter in its wider context, in the sphere of overall Armeno-Turkish relations. Taking the opportunity presented by this development, namely governmental permission to renovate an Armenian church in an important Kurdish region, let us attempt to explain Turkey’s attitude principally as it regards the Armenians.

Kemalist Turkey rose from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. The “mosaic” character of the multiracial Ottoman Empire was replaced by the purely ethnic national identity of the Turk. The Turkification of the people living in Turkey and its transformation into a homogenous collective constituted a cornerstone of the new governmental policy. To that end, the government went so far as to call millions of Kurds “mountain Turks.” Starting from the initial days of the founding of the new republic, they put up a wall of silence concerning the Armenian people and the Armenian Case.

They made them taboo. And if, for the purpose of modernizing the country, they replaced the Arabic letters with Latin letters, the idea behind that was to prevent the new generation from being able to read the personal memoirs of their grandfathers written in Ottoman Turkish. Among those grandfathers, the “Great Fathers” of Turkey were those who were among the main executioners responsible for annihilating our nation.

Although no article exists among Turkish laws putting restrictions on speaking about Armenian issues or the Armenian Case, nevertheless they are taboo. No one dared to speak about the Armenians. A wall of silence was erected insofar as Armenian history was concerned. Thus, the leaders of Kemalist Turkey continued to carry out, in various ways, the work left undone by the Young Turks.

In view of Turkey’s policy of wiping out all traces of Armenians, all segments of Western Armenian society enjoined in the pursuit of the Armenian Question, stage by stage, and the work of obtaining international recognition for the first genocide of the 20th century, committed against the Armenians.

Over the course of decades, the Armenians succeeded in destroying the wall of silence. A large number of countries and international courts of justice recognized the deportations and massacres carried out against the Armenians as genocide. Incidentally, in 1944, when Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide,” he was influenced by the Armenian massacres having occurred in Anatolia. Expressing himself about the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, Talaat’s assassin, in Berlin, he said the following:

“If the murder of one Turk, Talaat, is a crime, then what is the massacre of 1 million Armenians?” Subsequently, in 1948, the definition of genocide adopted by the UN included the decision to annihilate a nation, an ethnic group or a certain collective unit in a premeditated and organized manner. That was what the Turks did to the Armenian people. One after the other, internationally-famous jurists, courts of law, human rights groups, as well as numerous countries, proceeded to recognize the Armenian Genocide as fact. Turkey is endeavoring, in vain, with threats, distorted histories, hired “historians,” homegrown jurists and historians, to continually deny the great crime committed against our people. That’s because the wall of silence no longer exists; it’s been destroyed. Even impartial Turkish intellectuals, like Orhan Pamuk, consider as worthless the fabrications of their own government.

Turkey’s current leaders expended great effort over the past 10 years or so in order for Turkey to become a full-fledged member of the European Union. They carried out major reforms internally, in legislation, jurisprudence, prisons and other democratic realms, according to the Copenhagen accession criteria.

The permission to renovate first the Holy Cross Church of Van and now St. Giragos Cathedral of Dikranagerd must be considered as joyful occasions from our vantage point. These are our cultural and spiritual monuments, which are being saved from destruction. Let’s be glad for this. Never mind that the Turks are taking those steps to throw dust in the eyes of the Armenians and the international public.

SM: Fine, let’s accept all this and suppose that the splendid, magnificent St. Giragos Cathedral of Dikranagerd was reconstructed. However, there are practically no Armenians there any longer. What purpose will that reconstruction serve? What good will it do for our case?

PT: That’s a good and fitting question. That question is probably on the minds of many people: when our nation has so many needs in the diaspora and in Armenia, why should we go and renovate a cathedral in a region populated solely by Kurds?

There is a certain degree of logic in what they’re saying. However, it seems to me that when that cathedral is reconstructed and consecrated, naturally a group of Armenians, especially those who are originally from Dikranagerd, their children and offspring, along with clergymen, will go there once, twice or thrice annually and celebrate the Divine Liturgy. In this way, more interest will be created: since a cathedral is being reconstructed in such a place as Dikranagerd, which is located in southern Turkey, then there’s the likelihood that the numerous Armenian monuments in Erzerum, Van, Ani, etc., which were densely populated with Armenians, will also be reconstructed. Now, utilizing these sorts of renovations as historical precedents and treating them farsightedly is advantageous for us in the long run; therefore, it is necessary for us to have undergone these expenses and made this sacrifice.

SM: Then shall we hope that similar steps and others close to this will gradually prompt the Turkish government, move it closer, to the reality of reconciling with the idea of recognizing the genocide, finding a solution to the Armenian Question and redressing our demands?

PT: Yes, and why not? If we think that there were approximately 2 million Armenians living throughout Western Armenia, among whom very few, an insignificant number, had fought against Turkey as fedayees, as soldiers joining the Russian forces, is that a reason for a million people having lived on those lands for more than 3,000 years to be annihilated, their historical monuments to be reduced to ruins and the survivors, in turn, to be driven from their historical lands to the desert and become scattered from there to the four corners of the world?

After denying, rejecting all this for more than 95 years, when they admit today and permit the historical monuments of those people to be renovated, this will one day be a factor in favor of the redress of our demands. If the Turks really sit down to reckon with us and if it is proven that indeed the Armenians have had numerous churches, monuments and forts on those lands; if the international public is further informed and takes a position favoring their preservation, you don’t know what life will bring. Ten years ago, there were many things that we couldn’t conceive of even in our wildest imagination but today they’ve become reality. It’s possible that all this will serve the purpose of rendering justice, giving retribution to our people.

We must admit that Turkey began to make gigantic forward strides when the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party took the reins of government in 2002, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He worked wholeheartedly to enable Turkey to partake in the discussion of its membership in the European Union. In order to accomplish that objective, Turkey had to adopt the Copenhagen accession criteria. This was contingent upon making profound changes in the country’s order — social, legislative, democratic. Huge accomplishments were registered in that regard.

The absolute Turkish army was forced to contract within its “professional” boundaries. Turkey proceeded to occupy 16th place in the international economic arena, through the abolition of economic concessions and the promotion of free trade. Despite the world financial crisis, Turkey registered an enviable 6-percent economic growth.

Turkey was compelled to grant certain ethnic, cultural and linguistic freedoms to its Kurdish minority, largely under pressure from the European Union.

Furthermore, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, has adopted the policy of zero enmity with neighboring countries.

SM: What position has Turkey taken regarding the Armenian people and Armenia?

PT: Turkey’s persecution of the Armenian people is continuing with its denial of the Armenian Genocide. By putting pressure on Washington to prevent Congress from voting in favor of a Genocide resolution, Turkey is on a course of self-destruction. Instead of that, it must concentrate its efforts on normalizing its relations with the Armenian people.

On the other hand, the possibility of the opening of the borders and the establishment of normal relations, between Armenia and Turkey, remains narrow.

The Protocols remain frozen because Turkish diplomacy has become a hostage to Azerbaijan. Let me explain. After signing the Protocols, Turkey went ahead and made the granting of concessions to Azerbaijan towards resolution of the Karabagh conflict a precondition to the reopening of its borders, as well as the establishment of normal diplomatic relations, with Armenia. This was something that had no connection at all with the Protocols signed between the two countries. The reason is that there is a separate process ongoing for the resolution of the Karabagh conflict involving the Minsk Group.

The Armenian people can be glad for the permission granted by the Turkish government, first for the renovation of the Holy Cross Church on Lake Aghtamar and now the St. Giragos Cathedral of Dikranagerd. Perhaps these actions may serve as precedent for rescuing monuments of Armenian culture and civilization from the danger of permanently disappearing. Nevertheless, all this amounts to dust being thrown in the eyes of the international public and the Armenians.

In order to become a “normal” country and move forward, Turkey is obliged to squarely face its history and recognize the crux of its history — the fact of the Armenian Genocide — and make corresponding restitution.

SM: Let’s hope and see. Now, after this lengthy digress, let me move on to my other question. Could you mention the names of the benefactors and prominent figures who participated in that program held in New Jersey?

PT: Yes. As I noted at the beginning,Archbishop Aram Ateshian, patriarchal vicar of Constantinople, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate in Washington, DC. Also present were Mr. Garen Nazarian, Armenia’s ambassador to the UN, and his gracious wife, Nina. Mr. Nazarian is a serious, well-prepared and experienced diplomat, with a mastery of Armenian, English and Russian; he is surrounded by young, patriotic assistants, who have come from Armenia and are studying in America’s best universities. Prior to mentioning the benefactors’ names, I would like to say parenthetically that I had a private, three-hour conversation with Mr. Nazarian, during which we discussed the prospects for security, maintenance of stability and cooperation in the Southern Caucasus.

Naturally, we also discussed the resolution of the Karabagh conflict — a conflict that represents a complicated situation, which greatly differs from all other similar conflicts. Ambassador Nazarian stated that the main goal during negotiations, and daily diplomatic work, in general, has been to gain international recognition of the rights of the people of Karabagh. He noted that it seemed to the opponents of the process of conflict resolution that Armenia has been drawn into the process of conciliation but that’s not the case at all. President Sargisian has stated on a few occasions that reconciliation can only begin when Turkey recognizes the 1915 Genocide. Reconciliation can happen only after repentance and recognition of the Genocide. This will greatly contribute to the establishment of continuing peace and cooperation among the peoples and countries of the region. Turkey’s position of speaking in terms of preconditions is not acceptable to us, and Armenia will never question the historical fact of the Genocide. It’s a regrettable circumstance that Turkey, as a regional power, is not capable today of honoring its international commitment; namely, lifting the restrictions on the borders, normalizing relations with neighboring countries.

Returning to the benefactors present at the program, mention can be made of Kevork and Nighogos Atinizian, Dr. Raffy and Mrs. Shoghag Hovanessian, Mr. and Mrs. Hratch and Suzanne Toufayan, Mr. and Mrs. Nishan and Margaret Atinizian, Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Ruth Bedevian, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Jackie Basralian, chairman of the Dikranagerd Compatriotic Society and Knights of Vartan Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee, Mr. and Mrs. Hirant and Ruby Gulian, my longtime friend, Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan Prof. Dennis and Dr. Mary Papazian, as well as Mrs. Karine Kocharian, director of Ardzagang television program of the Greater New York area.

SM: Was this New Jersey program the only one you attended, or were there others?

PT: The following day, Vartivarian again “ordered” me, saying that we were going to Trumbull, Conn., where the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Holy Ascension Armenian Church was to take place. Driving over 100 miles, we reached the church, whose priest for the past 28 years has been Fr. Untzag Nalbandian, who now has a young, very affable assistant priest, whose name escapes me at the moment [Fr. Martiros Hakobyan]. A nice thing happened there: an elderly gentleman, who had been there when the church was built and who is now 100 years old, was present at the celebration, which was presided over by Edward Gulbenkian, the grandson of Calouste Gulbenkian, and whose wife turned out to be someone I knew: the daughter of Dr. Roubian of Beirut. What gave me great joy here was the fact that Alex Manoogian was ordained deacon in this church. When he saw that the majority of the Armenians having come from the “old country” were Turkish speaking, he said, “I’ll be your Armenian teacher.”

Thus, Alex Manoogian became the Armenian teacher in the Trumbull area. This was a moving revelation to me. When I was asked to speak, first I recited a few lines from Vahan Tekeyan’s poem “The Armenian Church” and then said that Mr. Manoogian had urged me to take on many projects. I stressed that he had always remained true to his self. When he came from Smyrna and saw that the immigrants were speaking Turkish, he became a teacher in order to teach them Armenian. This is truly a moving circumstance, isn’t it? Similarly, it is heartening that a scion of Gulbenkian was presiding over the celebration. I saw a warm Armenian spirit there and derived great satisfaction.

SM: What would you like to say about your meeting with Mr. Berge Setrakian?

PT: First, let me say that our dear president is a very dynamic individual. He told me that he is in New York only 90 days out of the entire year. He’s out of the country two thirds of the year. There’s a great advantage to that because wherever he goes, he puts his finger on the pulse of Armenian reality, closely studies the Armenian communities he visits, learns about their daily concerns, difficulties, expectations and accomplishments, etc. Thus, taking a broad view of the

Armenian scene, he has become a seasoned leader. Mr. Manoogian used to view the world from his office, whereas Mr. Setrakian goes personally and becomes informed on the spot, examines the issues and, parallel with his personal business, he occupies himself with and manages the affairs of AGBU. Among other things, he frequently visits Armenia. Recently I learned that Vera, his personable wife, after a visit to the Gulf, was on her way to Armenia to furnish the private house purchased by them there. This made me very happy.

After discussing current events, our conversations on both sides took us closer to more fundamental national concerns, particularly how to put the diaspora on a sounder and more balanced foundation. Achieving this goal presupposes creating collaboration between the AGBU and other like-minded elements in terms of clear-cut, practical and tangible goals and means.

It was very pleasant for me to see a practical, visionary and discerning man in Berge Setrakian.

SM: Earlier you mentioned “many issues.” All of us know that one of them is the closing down of Melkonian. Did you discuss this?

PT: First, let me say that I’m an alumnus of Melkonian. I lived at Melkonian for eight years, without spending a day outside of the school’s confines. Thus, I have every reason to take an emotional approach to the matter, but that won’t solve our problem. I’m well informed and have  closely followed the Melkonian issue. As an institution, Melkonian was founded in 1926 by two benefactors, Garabed and Krikor Melkonian. First, let me make a few corrections. AGBU is not the sponsor, the guardian of Melkonian Educational Institute. The benefactors gave Melkonian to AGBU. AGBU is the owner of Melkonian. Let me cite a small example: let’s say, God forbid, a bomb fell on an AGBU institution, some 10-20 Armenians died and a $100-million lawsuit was brought against AGBU. The AGBU is liable: i.e., it could go bankrupt if it doesn’t have that money; it is obliged to pay it because the institution is its, it is the owner.

There are documents proving this; as it is, all the courts showed that this is the case, and all the individual plaintiffs lost their case wherever they went. This is the de jure side. The de facto side is the following: Melkonian played a major role in our national life when the generation of orphans and the children succeeding them were educated there. From the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Melkonian was one of the few educational institutions whose graduates became priests, teachers, editors and other national workers all over the diaspora.

This secured a great reputation for Melkonian and its benefactors. However, life changed. The Armenian communities gradually began to come into their own and prosper. Thus, instead of sending their children to Melkonian, parents sent them to the local Armenian school, where they could receive the same amount of Armenian education. I should also mention that previously 70-80 percent of those who went to Melkonian were from the Near East — Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jerusalem. However, when the Arab-Israeli War took place, resulting in an increase of Arab nationalism, societal changes occurred from top to bottom in Egypt and Syria. One had to pass the state-administered college entrance examinations (Baccalaureate II) in order to qualify for higher education. Thus, students couldn’t be prepared for these examinations at Melkonian, located on a Greek island. The successful completion of the Baccalaureate II was a must for every family that sought to send their son or daughter to an institution of higher learning, even the American University of Beirut. This requirement dealt a blow to Melkonian day after day. The point is that Melkonian’s pupils had to come from other countries, other places. Where would they come from? First, let me say that in 1972 Mr. Manoogian sent his director to Lebanon to inform that Melkonian should be shut down because it was no longer serving its purpose and that another raison d’être had to be found. Mr. Manoogian even thought of relocating the school to Marseille, where at least it could satisfy the educational needs of our European, or Western, communities. Melkonian’s board of trustees requested of Mr. Manoogian to grant them a conditional period, during which they would endeavor to find a large number of pupils and thus justify the school’s existence.

That conditional period was granted to them. During that time, in the 1970s, the Lebanese civil war broke out, families fled to Cyprus and parents enrolled their children in Melkonian. However, when the danger passed, they all went back to Lebanon. Subsequently, another wave came as a consequence of the Islamic revolution in Iran (1979). That, too, passed. Melkonian was again left with its difficulties. As a solution, it was proposed that if Melkonian had certain income-producing structures on its property, as well as modern buildings for boys and girls, we could have 300-400-500 pupils, and therefore the school must remain open and function. Members of the Melkonian Alumni Association promised that they would send their children and grandchildren to Melkonian, and everything would be fine. To the best of my knowledge, only two persons sent their grandchildren from the West: one was Haigashen Ouzounian, who sent his two granddaughters; I, Panos Titizian, was the other, who sent my grandson to study there and paid his tuition in full. Thus, the alumni didn’t acquit themselves, as promised. This is the same alumni association, which keeps the pot of discontent boiling until the present, demanding that the school maintain its existence without fail on the same site. In addition, there is also a group of naïve individuals who are in agreement with the alumni association, without knowing the core of the problem. Thus, the school was faced with the same problem. Despite the fact that the principal made the rounds of the Arab world and elsewhere, the school’s enrollment remained slightly over 200, and the main sources of that number became Armenia (as if Armenia was in need of national self-preservation), Karabagh, Bulgaria, etc. The families sending their children from the aforementioned areas weren’t doing so solely for educational purposes; rather, they also considered it a means of pursuing their dream of emigrating to the West one day….

As far as Melkonian’s curriculum of that periodis concerned, 80 percent of it was in English and the remaining 20 percent Armenian; thus it wasn’t at all different from the American- Armenian schools. AGBU made up the annual deficit of $500,000 incurred by this sort of institution. That is to say, $6,000 expense per student. When it cost only $50 a year in a place like Arab Punar in Jezireh, this is unfair. It was in a way possible to reconcile with the situation, if the Armenian education was on the level that existed when Hagop Oshagan, Vahan Tekeyan, Vahe Vahian or Vahram Mavian were teaching there, or close to it….Thus, the cost/effectiveness relationship was totally out of sync. If AGBU was obliged to shut Melkonian down, the money saved will serve the goal of national self-preservation. AGBU is a service institution in the realm of Armenian life, and that is what’s important in this century, in the present, ever-changing world. Thus, based on this and other considerations, that which is going on presently against AGBU, particularly against its president, Berge Setrakian, and Louise Simone, cannot be justified at all. Today Berge Setrakian is the person who has come to his position at the right time. He is the son of a middle-class family from Beirut, who has risen from the ranks of the AYA to a high position in the field of law. After coming to New York from Lebanon, he became a partner in one of the top international law firms. He knows both the East and the West. He often goes to Armenia with projects beneficial to the advancement of the nation. He’s a young man with the will and dynamism to serve the Armenian people, and he has the stamina to serve both AGBU and the Armenian nation for at least 15-20 more years.

Let me also add that it is not possible to give  a complete picture regarding the closure of Melkonian Educational Institute in the course of such an interview as this. This is the case, particularly since the issue is heavily colored with emotional contents. There are many Melkonian alumni, who sincerely regret the school’s closure without being closely informed about the reasons behind AGBU’s decision. There are also those individuals who, exhibiting an exaggerated sentiment or nostalgia, are trying to play the role of “savior,” as “members and friends of Melkonian Alumni Association”…. “Alumni” is understandable but what is meant by “friends”? It’s as if by exhibiting worthless platonic loves, people either wish to create interest around themselves or perhaps they’re trying to add fuel to the fire, in order to wage a secret, full-scale and impassioned struggle against the AGBU leadership. This is not the first time that an Armenian educational institution has closed down due to conditions. Forgetting about  Constantinople, Tiflis and Moscow, let’s concentrate on the recent past. Prior to the Lebanese civil war, there were more than 50 Armenian schools there; today their number has dropped to 28. This is a regrettable but inevitable loss. However, that doesn’t mean that we should act with a defeatist attitude; rather, we should face new challenges, realistically overcome them, and give new form and impetus to our struggle for survival….

It is possible that I will reflect upon the Melkonian issue in a more exhaustive manner in the future. Until then, I stress once again that today’s modern plans and projections are based more on services. Huge buildings, institutions, etc. can lose much of their importance from one day to the next. New projections must be feasible and sustainable.

It is with this mentality that the AGBU leaders, with Berge Setrakian at their head, are endeavoring to act.

In concluding our interview dealing with fundamental national issues, as Andranik Dzaroukian once said, “Let’s talk plain, and not try to put new feathers on our problems.” Our concern in the diaspora is to endure, to maintain and protect our national identity, national belongingness and national legacy. On the other hand, our independent country of Armenia is facing major imperatives. It is at such a geopolitical and strategic focal point where the interests of regional and international forces clash. In order to be equal to such a complex situation, we are obliged to develop a new mentality, one which will be modern, suitable for the rapidly changing times and taking steps corresponding to them. That is what AGBU’s leaders, led by Berge Setrakian, are attempting to do.

I wish to take this occasion to express my thanks to President Berge Setrakian, Dr. and Mrs. Hovanessian and Mr. and Mrs. Vartivarian for the warm treatment extended to me during the course of this visit.

(This is a translation, by Aris G. Sevag, of the text published in Nor Gyank weekly’s June 9 issue.)


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