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.