Commentary: Where Is the Enemy?


By Edmond Y. Azadian

When Alexander the Great — who was not yet great at the time — inherited the throne from his father, Phillip II, the first thing that he did was to distribute his entire wealth to the people. When he was asked what was left to him after that act of generosity, he answered with one word: “hope.” And that hope gave him enough vision and strength to conquer the old world.

This brings us to the days when Armenia gained independence 20 years ago. There was no power, no water, no bread, no heat, but the population was full of anticipation, because there was hope. And hope propelled the Armenians to win the Karabagh war and liberate Shushi.

Today the situation is almost reversed: the country enjoys 24 hours of electricity a day; only some rural areas complain about the scarcity of water; there is an abundance of bread, if one can afford to buy it and Yerevan has become a bustling city alive with cafes, nightclubs and casinos. Yet people are leaving in droves. Why? Because there is no hope. It is almost ironic that people were ready and willing to endure the hardships and continue holding on to the land, yet today, in relative comfort, they are leaving the homeland, which we had dreamed of for centuries. And if we dare to ask the emigrants why they have decided to leave Armenia, the cynical answer is ready: “We held on to the land and we suffered too much to preserve the homeland for you. Now it’s your turn to come and keep the country alive.”

The value system has turned upside down. During the Soviet period, people were sent to Siberia as punishment, while today the Russian government is inviting Armenian families to settle in Siberia as a reward, by providing homes, jobs and citizenship.

During the Genocide, honorable Armenian women jumped to their deaths in the Euphrates River, to avoid being raped by Turks. Today, young Armenian women are crossing the same river into Turkey for prostitution.

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Recently, Prof. Gerard Libaridian published an in-depth article in the Armenian press, sounding an alarm over the population decrease in Armenia. It was titled “Appeal: Critical Moment in Armenian History.” It is no secret to anyone where Libaridian stands in the administration-opposition equation. Hopefully, his alarm will not be viewed within that context, because his voice comes from the very depth of our history. His theory is that Armenians can survive dictatorships, genocide, earthquake, war and any other calamity, but they cannot survive after the depopulation of the homeland.

The precedents he has cited in his article are bitter, yet succinct. The fall of the Bagratuni Kingdom was accelerated when the Arzunis began a side show in Akhtamar, causing the depopulation of the mainland. He also theorizes that the Genocide became a feasible option for the Young Turks when the Armenian population was reduced into minority status in historic Armenian provinces, while the self- efense war in Vasbouragan was successful because Armenians were a majority in that region, during World War I.

Today, with brain drain and depopulation, Armenia has reached a critical point, after which it will not be able to sustain a government nor defend its borders.

Of course, there are objective reasons for this ominous state of affairs; Turkey and Azerbaijan are continuing their genocidal policies in an entirely different form, by blockading Armenia into economic strangulation and possible extinction. The Georgians are no lesser enemies.

Recently Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili openly declared that “Azerbaijan’s enemy is our enemy.” No one has any doubts that the target of that announcement was Armenia.

These are our external enemies that cannot behave otherwise, based on their own national self-interest. But we have internal enemies who are more detrimental. Those are the very same people who have created a caste of oligarchs to stifle Armenia’s economy for their own selfish interests.

When government functionaries — and even one minister — plundered the help that was sent to Armenia for the destitute survivors of the earthquake, we were all appalled by how much degeneration was caused to the Armenian character by the Soviet rule. But the trend continues. Recently, diasporan benefactor and businessman Vahakn Hovnanian cited some examples in an interview. He says he tried to get involved in the wheat business, but he received threats that his wheat field would be burnt down before the harvest, although, Armenia is a net importer of wheat.

He has tried to import timber from Russia, but his Russian counterparts have even refused to deal with him, because timber is the monopoly of certain oligarchs. He has encouraged some Diaspora Armenians to do business in the homeland, but the government apparatchiks have scared them away.

Any Armenian who has had business dealings can cite at least five or more similar instances.

Any foreign investor seems to be at risk. The bodies of several foreign nationals who were engaged in business were discovered in Armenia and even before the police investigation, stories were planted in the media about the characters of the assassinated people who were not able to defend themselves any more.

The same hostile policy is applied against the local people. Currently there is a huge controversy, pitting the mayor of Yerevan against street vendors who have put up primitive structures to make a living. And of course, they have paid exorbitant bribes to city functionaries to get illegal permits to build those kiosks. Rather than going after the corrupt functionaries, the mayor is evicting the vendors, of course, for a good cause. Who does not wish Yerevan to be beautiful? But before that, an answer must be found to the question: who will feed the families of those vendors?

While oligarchs live in obscene opulence, the majority of the people have to struggle for survival, and if they can find a way to secure that survival in any other country, they will not hesitate for one moment.

Even those still living in Armenia cannot contribute to the population growth as indicated by a sociologist study. The statistics are as follows: 68.3 percent of the families do not wish to have a child; 16.4 percent plan to have only one child and 13.6 percent have no answer. Among the reasons cited, economy is rated first.

Citing a historic precedent, Libaridian writes: “Our numbers had fallen below a certain threshold, to a level that had made Armenian revolution against the state of the Ottoman Empire impossible and successful self-defense against the Genocide by and large, hopeless. …Nearly a century later, we may now be reaching a similar threshold in the Republic of Armenia, where the decreasing level of population closely linked to the unresolved conflicts with the neighbors that is threatening the viability of the economy and national defense.”

Turks, Azeris and Georgians are Armenia’s enemies and they wish to wipe out Armenia from the map. Armenians have withstood that pressure for 20 years now, and maybe they can resist longer. But what about the enemy within?

We cannot confront the enemy across the border without killing first that enemy within.

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