By Edmond Azadian
It is a delightful autumn night in Yerevan. Streets are bustling with people. Families are strolling along boulevards and the city lights create an idyllic atmosphere. The illuminated city floats like a love boat in the ocean of the balmy night. My friends from Poland admire the kindness of the people around. They observe the authentic Armenian character of the buildings around and even in the modern stores. One particular liquor store sparks their interest — the Noah’s Ark House on Amirian Street. As we enter, the haul of Noah’s Ark, the host greets the visitor. Spirits distilled in Armenia and around the world line up in elegant bottles. Perhaps Noah himself never visualized that his ark would float over such a vast sea of light and opulence.
The illuminations at Republic Square, at the Opera House and the Cascade reminds us of the Renaissance Italian city of Vicenza, with the modern descendant of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio, Alexander Tamanyan’s monument commanding the city from the foot of the Cascade.
However, I am reluctant to point to my foreign friends the discrepancy between the capital and the rural areas 20 miles outside the city, where people live in medieval conditions. I allow them the illusion of a prosperous and happy country as I myself also delve into that illusion for a moment until I remember the 22nd anniversary of independence which is around the corner. And I begin to ask myself, how long will this illusion last with the current rate of demographic hemorrhage? The question gnaws away at my heart as I begin to think of the dangers facing Armenia.
After six centuries of foreign domination, independence came to Armenia in 1918. That did not last long as Armenia was absorbed in 1920 into the Soviet Empire with semi-independent status. When Armenia became independent in the 20th century for a second time, the two-and-a-half year experience of earlier independence became a psychological barrier which we crossed unscathed and now the 22nd year of independence sounds very natural.
In both cases, independence was thrust upon the Armenian people. Our patriotism behooves us to believe and profess that we indeed fought for our independence and that victory at Sardarabad against the General Karabekir’s forces gave us the foundations of nation-building. But, in reality, the collapse of the Czarist Empire created a political vacuum in the Caucasus region, which led to the formation of a confederation called Sayme by Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, which did not last very long and each constituent group was forced to declare its independence as all three nationalities had internal conflicts and territorial claims from each other. Armenia was the last one to declare independence on May 28, 1918, yet the newly-created state apparatus, called the National Council (Azkayin Khorhourt) continued functioning in Tbilisi, until the Georgians politely invited Armenia’s political structure out of their country.