Whither Armenia and the Diaspora?

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Mount Ararat (Photo: Rupen Janbazian/The Armenian Weekly)

It seems most times when I write a piece that I think is of great importance, the response is… crickets. Yet, I feel compelled to keep addressing such issues, even though they tend to be nerdy, wonky, geeky, etc. All the things that many people don’t care to read, but here goes…

This discussion is meant to be internally—that is, Armenian oriented. Great power games, Turko-Azeri foolishness, economics, etc. should be far from the focus of our thinking. It is born of a recent discussion with my two college roommates. It is only the very roughest of outlines, beginnings, in addressing the issues at hand. And even more, it is a series of inquiries, perhaps even probes. But, it may be that this matter is the most important long-term item on the Armenian agenda, our conclusions impacting us well into the future, probably for at least a century or two.

First, for clarity, let me define what I mean in this discussion when I use the terms Armenia, Diaspora, and Armenian (except if it refers to the language). Armenia refers to it all, the whole kit-and-caboodle—Greater and Lesser Armenia plus Cilicia. Diaspora means every Armenian living outside of Armenia as defined. Armenian means every human who says, in one way or another, “I am Armenian.”

Let’s proceed under the assumption that all Armenians want to persist as such, passing on what we have created over thousands of years so each future generation can add to that legacy.

The question becomes: How is that to happen?

One approach is that we must all, in time, reassemble in Armenia. Of course, this means liberation from Turkish occupation at least that part of Armenia, which has come to be known as Wilsonian Armenia. This has largely been the approach adopted by almost everyone to date.

Yet, because this approach associates nation with land and borders, it is seen as nationalist. The argument is that nationalism as “invented” in Europe through the 19th century is now a passé ideology, in part because it required borders defining a homeland for a nation. An alternative approach to Armenianness in this case is that each of the many diasporas (note the plural usage which seems to be ever more prevalent in scholarly circles) persists and develops in response to its own locale’s particular conditions.

Quick-and-dirty criticism of each of these approaches:

  1. Exceedingly few Armenians have any interest in ever moving from their current places of residence to Armenia, so that cannot be an organizing principle. The reality of Armenians living scattered the world over is being disregarded.
  2. If multiple diasporas are to evolve, what makes them Armenian? What connects them to one another and Armenia? When do the differences become so large as to make each one no longer Armenian? Why would any human living in country X want to be anything but a member of the local nation unless there is some greater purpose?

In either case, where and how do our irredenta and pursuit of reparations come into play? Who determines how to proceed? How do the Armenian Diaspora(s) and Armenia (especially with Artsakh being a separate republic threatened, albeit indirectly, by the occupying power—Turkey) coordinate on these crucial matters? What becomes of our language? Does the current direction and pace of technological development hold out the hope of answers?

I have some pretty well formed opinions about this fundamentally important matter, but it’s going to take a lot more discussion, both by experts and “mere mortals” before we can come to a consensus as to what our multigenerational direction should be.

What’s your thinking on this? Please contribute your thoughts.

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Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly in the Weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He’s got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he’s got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble.

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