During the last six centuries, the concept and reality of a homeland have been lost and found, yet Armenians have survived after losing their homeland and have struggled to recover it from the ashes of history.

Today, as we celebrate the 29th anniversary of Armenian independence, we face an ironic situation; while Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is mapping a plan for Armenia’s future, the year 2050 to be exact, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan is dreaming of absorbing the present territory of Armenia into his own country. How history can reconcile these two opposing concepts is anyone’s guess.

It is not a new phenomenon for Armenians to lose their homeland, but this time around, the prospect of losing is far from their minds. Instead, based on the current reality, Armenians are determined to maintain the recovered territory of Karabakh and aspire even to restore, one day, the lands prescribed by the Treaty of Sèvres.

On September 21, marking the 29th anniversary of Armenia’s independence, Pashinyan detailed his overarching plan for how he envisions Armenia in 2050; a projection for the next 30 years.

“These are ambitions based on the future, but not predictable commitments and plans. Thus, we formulate our ambitions, which can be called unofficially as dreams,” he said.

Armenia is located in a geographic area where wars, earthquakes and clashes of civilizations are not uncommon. In order to achieve such a mega-plan, all predictable factors need to be considered.

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Pashinyan, reflecting on the past, said that Armenia has never adopted such a plan, and that is why the country is in its current enervated situation.

Pashinyan’s plan is ambitious indeed; it envisions increasing Armenia’s population to 5 million, creating 1.5 million new jobs, conquering poverty, increasing the GDP 20 fold, raising the median salary by seven, adopting a healthy lifestyle in an ecologically sound Armenia, extending life expectancy to 90 years, building the most efficient army, converting Armenia into a high-tech country with at least 5 corporations worth more than $10 billion, inviting 10,000 start-ups and winning 25 Olympic gold medals.

In order to work, Pashinyan’s plan must make Armenia attractive for investors.

There was no reference to the role of the church, other than a passing mention of “traditional values.” Nor was the diaspora’s role factored in, except with regard to repatriation, whereas the diaspora has a large potential which could be properly harnessed and turned into a contributing factor to these overarching goals.

Repatriation cannot be fashioned or planned based on historical experience. The main repatriation to Armenia took place in the 1920s and 1930s, when stateless Armenians had been scattered geographically and they were in search of a base. Masses returned from Greece and in the 1940s, from the Middle East, to overburden the misery of the local people and only end up in Siberia. Many of those who moved to the homeland were disenchanted with the experience.

Writers, artists and scholars were invited to create a cultural renaissance of the homeland. Prominent figures such as Avetik Isahakyan, Gosdan Zoryan, Hratchia Ajaryan, Martiros Saryan and Ara Sarksyan heeded the call. Yet, today’s repatriation can only be achieved when Armenia becomes a highly attractive place to live and raise a family. Very few foolhardy people will venture to settle in Armenia out of patriotic zeal, leaving behind their comfortable lives in the diaspora.

During earlier repatriations, there were some misconceptions, from those settling in Armenia and from the locals, who were wondering why people living elsewhere could forfeit their lives and choose to live in a country where living conditions considered minimal elsewhere were considered luxurious at home.

Also, there was no reference to the Genocide and the future of the Armenian Case. Perhaps these policies had to do with compensation and territorial claims.

Back to the present: some who heard about the prime minister’s plans greeted it with sardonic smiles, whereas others accepted it with the belief that Pashinyan knows all.

Succeeding generations of Armenians have struggled to gain independence but twice it was not those efforts but historic accidents which brought independence to Armenia.

In 1918, the Ottoman and Russian empires collapsed and in the ensuring political vacuum, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan attained independence, only to be absorbed into the Soviet Union two years later. The same thing almost happened again in 1991, when the Soviet Union imploded and its constituent republics were left on their own.

Today, as we celebrate nearly three decades of statehood, it behooves us to assess the historical experience of those years in order to be able to project the future and somehow accommodate Pashinyan’s plan.

As much as Armenia has struggled to build a civil society based on Western democratic values, it has been handicapped by the burden of history, and to this day, it cannot build statehood based on a political philosophy.

Before, the Soviet era, the czar was the monarch and embodied the state. Then, the Soviet regime came to power, supposedly to implement an ideology. It was basically a huge demographic experiment which failed because the Czar’s one-man rule continued, only this time, replaced with Stalin’s one-man rule.

When the Soviet empire splintered, the emerging states became miniatures of their former parent state. Armenia could not escape the shadow of the personality cult. Four succeeding regimes in the country all were ruled by a mini-monarch. The reason that Armenia and its fellow republics replicated the former model of statehood was that they failed to develop an ideology; ideologies are built on political parties, in the European pattern. Yet in Armenia and its similar nations, all the parties were centered around a strong leader’s person or purse, rather than a set of beliefs.

One can still ask what the political ideology of Pashinyan’s My Step party is. In addition, we have to wonder if the party can outlast Pashinyan.

We can claim all we want that our ideal is to build a state emulating Western democratic values, but when the country continues to be ruled by a strongman, democracy will evade Armenia.

A certain level of altruism and national pride is expected from the ruler to work towards rebuilding state institutions and develop true political parties, which can eventually lead to a system of government wherein the individual ruler will not compete with the system.

As long as we fail to recreate such traditions, the current chaos will continue in Armenia and each new administration will heap blame on the previous regimes for its own failures.

A propos, the diasporan political parties were not able to survive in Armenia for the same reason. They were not perfect because they were formed and operated in alien societies but they had developed ideologies which survived their leaders and they had an experience in the liberation movement.

The Velvet Revolution brought an end to corruption, attempted to establish the rule of law and temporarily put a hold on emigration. But a revolutionary government by definition has some difficulties, since instead of operating as opposition, now it works as the power center. This new situation for the revolutionaries has led to vendettas. Witch hunts and rancorous treatment of the ancient regime officials will only generate instability. Instead, the new administration needs stability in order to achieve its long-term goals.

Armenia can rank itself among civilized countries if it can muster the courage to celebrate its 30th anniversary, having on the stage side-by-side Levon Ter Petrosian, Robert Kocharyan, Serzh Sargsyan and Nikol Pashinyan. This may sound like an unorthodox expectation but it is the hallmark of civilized nations.

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