By Vicken Cheterian
The 2020 defeat was not only that of Armenia, but also the failure of Diaspora politics. For the Armenian Diaspora it should be a starting point for a radical reappraisal of policies followed in the past thirty years. Only after that we can start a serious dialogue – not folklore! – about Armenia-Diaspora relations. But are we ready for that?
There is a sense of bitterness within Diaspora communities. It has short-term reasons, the emotional shock caused by the war, by the large Diaspora mobilization, and by the massive human and material losses. The official propaganda coming out of Yerevan made people believe, making disappointment even more bitter. But it also has long-term causes: the three-decade long Diaspora mobilization to help strengthen independent Armenia, and support Karabakh Armenians’ security and political rights, is now shattered.
If Diaspora Armenians want to understand the causes of this dual defeat – the military defeat of Armenia, and the failure of the Armenian Diaspora to become a “strategic partner” of Yerevan, then it is time to ask difficult questions: how did political choices taken by Diaspora institutions produce the 2020 defeat and failure.
Diaspora organizations never openly discussed their policies or evaluate the consequences. Key Diaspora institutions, such as the three traditional parties the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the Social-Democrat Hunchagyans, and the Ramgavar, the Armenian Church, and major foundations such as the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), and others, need to discuss past choices, identify failures, and then draw a new road-map. Since the emergence of independent Armenian republic in 1991 the sum of those efforts is what I call “Armenia First” policies.
If one summarizes the political choices made by the major Diaspora institutions it can be roughly summarized around three major lines: