Saturday, 18 August

Diaspora Historian Argues Against "One Nation, One Homeland" Myth



Talin Suciyan calls for greater bridge building between western and eastern Armenians 

In December 2013, Munich-based historian Talin Suciyan was invited to Yerevan by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to participate in a conference regarding Diaspora-Armenia relations. Also invited were other intellectuals and political figures with a western Armenian background.

Suciyan, a researcher at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich's Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, tells Hetq that the participants had different approaches to the Diaspora – Armenia (hayrenik/homeland) paradigm:

“I was told that we'd be discussing the Diaspora-Armenia relations and probable new ways of relations between the two. Afterwards, during the discussion, it became clear that we had differing understandings regarding a number of concepts. One of these concepts was the idea of the homeland. There was a general conceptualization, that of a nation state, which included the concept of Armenia and of a diaspora belonging to it.

"There exists a diaspora which doesn't belong to Armenia: it was created before the independence of Armenia, mostly from the late 19th century up till 1915 and after. It is the diaspora of western Armenians.

"There is also a diaspora formed after Armenia's independence that's comprised of individuals from Armenia. The approach of official Armenia to somehow link these two realities and call them one diaspora is a figment of the imagination. 

"We must recognize these differences and speak about them, putting aside those imaginary, idealized, abstract concepts such as 'One nation, one homeland'. I believe that the most glaring example of these differences was the reaction of diaspora communities regarding Armenia’s signing of the protocols with Turkey. We must learn lessons from what transpired.

Please explain. 

"First of all, as I explained, there is no direct affiliation, and second, which is much more important, there is no mechanism of representation, especially for the western diaspora. That is, the diaspora minister is decided by the state or the government; accordingly, this government must be the representative of the people of Armenia in Armenia but not of western Armenians. Third, Armenia, of course, is dear for all Armenians; that is, there are Armenians who have never been to Armenia, but the idea of Armenia is [pure] bliss for them, or they think, there's a country where people speak Armenian.

"There are Armenians who come to Armenia once a year, stay for 15 days, and that is also a connection for them. There are diasporan Armenians who have settled in Armenia. Armenia is important for all, but when we assume that Armenia is also the homeland for all, that's something different, because Armenia can be someone's birthplace; for someone else, it is the birthplace of his forbearers. So, where is home for someone living in Glendale [California] whose ancestors are from Tigranakert?

"There's another reality: the diasporan Armenian does not live in the day-to-day of an Armenian living in Armenia, and that's natural. And I think, the day-to-day is very important, because it's our life." 

What is expected of the diaspora ministry? 

"It can be said, if the number of diasporan Armenians is three times greater than those living in Armenia, then a diaspora ministry is needed. In my opinion, the work of the diaspora ministry is first and foremost in Armenia. Between Armenia and the diaspora there are very important cultural, political differences and in way of thinking. There have to be spaces created where we can live together with those differences and establish connections with each other." 

Is this succeeding? Is there such a process in place? 

"There are very good explanations of the cultural differences and the challenges that arise from them in Anahit Mkrtchyan's research. In my opinion, Armenia has to be a country where eastern and western Armenians can talk together and understand each other.  For Armenia to be a country in everyday life that creates spaces for western Armenian intellectuals, so they come to Armenia often, do their research, teach in the universities, establish ties with university students and with the western Armenian world. 

"In recent years, there's been an effort in literature for books written in Western Armenian to be printed in Armenia. Armenians migrating from Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, many came on sad occasions, but today you can hear Western Armenian on the streets of Armenia. The same happened in the 1940s, when there was an immigration to Armenia program, but those people were unable to stay, since the differences between the worlds of eastern and western Armenian were unable to live together in the Soviet reality. If we go back further, we remember the western Armenian intellectuals who survived 1915 and came to Armenia, for example, Zabel Yesayan, who disappeared in 1943 — but very little is spoken about this. Of course we speak of Charents, but not as often about Zabel Yesayan, and when it is spoken about, it is so in a very limited context."

Fine. So what do you propose should be done?

The Ministry of the Diaspora must work to create these spaces, so that Armenia can become a country in which western Armenians have opportunities to live normally. While saying this, I know that people in Armenia are facing serious difficulties and challenges – political, social, and why not, endless migration.

To date, we have no such representative organizations in the diaspora; no such system. I would like to reflect on the words of Mihran Dabagh, Director of the Genocide and Diaspora Studies Institute at Bochum University, regarding the importance of having strong communities. I believe it’s a significant point.

Community life assumes that, for example, you can send your child to an Armenian school. When you are poor, you can seek assistance from the community budget. When you want to attend a concert, say, the community should have the ability to organize such events. In other words, the community is life itself, and people speaking the same language and sharing the same culture have a need for this.

That’s to say there must be a direct link between ones daily life and the community. There must be a mechanism for self-revival for the creation of a community. Only when there is a community can we think about representation.

Photo: Haigazian University

  


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Comments (22)
1. Harut19:56 - 13 January, 2014
This is a bold approach to the perennial question of the Armenian Diaspora. Ms Suciyan has brought to light the plight of many Diaspora Armenians and where they find themselves. The search for ones own identity in a foreign land is a nagging crisis of the new generation of Armenians. This bridge between Armenia its people need to be discussed and solutions needs to be discussed on a greater scale. Yes, we all will remain still remain one even if we have different affiliations and various other connections.
2. Թլկատինցի22:10 - 13 January, 2014
Եղած եմ Հայաստանի Հանրապետութիւն, Պարսկահայք եւ Արեւմըտեան Հայաստան...Ապրած եմ զանազան վայրեր երբ տակաւին ինչ-որ հայ համայնքային կեանք կար: Ամէն տեղ տարաբնույթ անցեալի հետքեր ու յուշեր քաղած եմ մինչ 1915-ին արեւմտահայկական եղած իրականութէնէն: Այդ իրականութիւնը անվերադարձ անցաւ ու գնաց: Նունը վերակերտել անհնարին է եւ անիմաստ: Նոր պայմաններ եւ նոր ժամանակներ նոր թելադրանքներ կուտան անոնց որոնք ինքնութեան փնտրտուքի մէջ են: Ներկայ Հայաստանի մէջ չես գտնար անցեալը՝սոսկ անհետացող ասակաւաթիւ ակնարկներ: Եթէ գալու լինես Հայաստան պատրաստ եղի՛ր ՆՈՐ հայկական իրականութիւն մը ապրելու: Իսկ, եթէ կամենաս կարող ես որոշ չափով կերտել քու սեփական ինքնութիւնը:
3. Հայոց լեզվի ուսուցիչ22:37 - 13 January, 2014
Ժամանակն է այս խնդիրների շուրջ խոսելիս, քննարկումների հավաքվելիս կարևորել դպրոցի խնդիրը թե Հայաստանում, թե Սփյուռքում; Սովետական տարիներին մայրենիի գրքեր էին տպագրվում Սփյուռքի դպրոցների համար; ԵՎ ինչ---արևելահայ գրողների, բանաստեղծների գործերը իբրև թե վեր էին ածում արևմտահայերենի, չըմբռնելով, որ դա գրեթե հանցագործություն է; Աղջիկս հայերեն է դասավանդում Սան Ֆրանցիսկոյի հայկական դպրոցում. խնդրել եմ նման բան չանել ու դա նաև իր սկզբունքն է; Հայաստանի դպրոցներում արևմտահայ գրականության մարգարիտներին երեխան պիտի սկսի ծանոթանալ դեռ երրորդ, չորրորդ դասարանից, ոչ թե հիմիկվա նման ութ կամ իններորդից; Այո, հայ մարդը որտեղ էլ ապրի պետք է և ազատ կարդա, և հասկանա թե արևմտահայերենը, թե արևելահայերենը; Իսկ դրան հասնելու ճանապարհը սկսվում է միայն ու միայն դպրոցից; Սիրտս ուղղակի ցավեց, երբ կարդացի, որ ՅՈՒՆԵՍԿՕՆ արևմտահայերենը դասել է անհետացող լեզուների շարքում; Քավ լիցի;
4. Vahan10:43 - 14 January, 2014
The defense and usage of Western Armenian in Armenia is up to each and every speaker to propagate the language in daily conversation. Parents who speak Western Armenian should be conversing with their kids in both the eastern and western variants. The notion that children of diasporan parents now living in Armenia should only learn Eastern Armenian is foolhardy and restrictive. At an early age children are being taught foreign languages, so why not two branches of the same language. Don't wait for an official decree from the government to spur the usage of Western Armenian. Just speak it!!! How many languages are spoken in Switzerland? Here in little Armenia, nowhere are there official restrictions against the use of Western Armenian. The RoA may be geographically part of eastern Armenian but it is the product of the historical development of both Armenias - Ottoman and Russian. As such, it's cultural and social underpinnings have been a hybrid ever since the existence of the First Republic. Today's Armenia is an amalgam of the two. If the "western Armenian" diaspora wants a place in the new Armenia, then it should act and stop whining about political restrictions, cultural differences and attitudinal dissimilarities. The country is what you make of it. You won't bring back the western Armenia of the past, but you at least will be able to preserve aspects of the culture in a much more conducive environment. Yes, the "One Nation, One Culture" catchphrase of the RoA Ministry of the Diaspora is a myth that needs to be replaced with something more inclusive and multi-layered. No one in official Yerevan seems to grasp this reality - or else they are frightened of its implications. That's their problem!!!
5. H.C.17:27 - 14 January, 2014
"the "One Nation, One Culture" catchphrase of the Ministry..." ? Vahan, those words do not belong to any current Ministry, they are not invented by its PR people. It refers to a fundamental precept defining the Armenian Liberation Movement which started around 1930… Beyond the words, through real efforts and tremendous sacrifices, it actually insured our survival up to now. Just to give some examples of what the idea behind that slogan achieved, in actual reality : without it, the current Republic of Armenia would not have existed, Artsakh would never have been liberated. Without it, the Genocide would not have been necessary… And when it happened, it would have been complete… The whole Armenian Cause is based on this conception, the Diaspora still manages to be on life-support thanks to it, and the ultimate fate of Armenia depends from it. I understand that everybody is looking for some solutions to our huge problems, but before destroying the little we still have, let's at least understand what we are talking about. Cf. http://hetq.am/arm/opinion/31951/spiւrq-inch-spiւrq.html
6. H.C.17:29 - 14 January, 2014
(1830, that is, of course... not 1930...)
7. George19:26 - 14 January, 2014
.....the only Myth that is mentioned in tnis article is the term Western Armenians. There are no more western Armenians......there are french lebanese syrian australian armenians........And all those have alot of difference but their main goal remains the same. Armenians all over the world have one homeland which is Armenia....the lands which are controlled by the Armenian Armed Forced and where we have the State of Armenia.
8. Vahan20:14 - 15 January, 2014
Sorry H.C., but the "One Nation, One Culture" rhetoric is exactly the fabrication of the current RA govt and propagated by the Ministry of the Diaspora. To say the concept dates back to circa 1830 (why 1830?) is stretching it a bit. Show me one mention of anything remotely akin to this dating back to that date. Of, course, the liberation of the homeland from Ottoman despotism was a core element of the national awakening that would come a decade or so later, but to state that the intelligentsia in Bolis or Tiflis put forth a "One Culture" ideal is ludicrous. The beys and aghas of the Armenian bourgeoisie had little need for the rural Armenian whose culture was drastically different from the salons of the Ottoman capital. "Culture" is not some imaginary reality to be showcased whenever needed but manifestation of a people's objective conditions. This isn;t some Marxist mumbo-jumbo either. Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were far from sharing a common culture. You can surely accept this fact. The same goes for present-day Armenia. Is ths culture (political and moral value systems, lifestyle, etc) the same for the fat-cat MP sitting in the National Assembly and the poor shlub driving a taxi cab for 12 hours a day, or the single mom with several kids to feed...And on and on... Are you actually arguing that the privileged MP and the unemployed thousands in Armenia share the same culture just because their last names end in "yan"? The "One Nation, One Culture" concept is a smokescreen conveniently employed by the powers that be to advance their own narrow interests; pure and simple. And they're using the ruse to attract the Armenians from overseas. They repeat the worn-out rhetoric of nationalism and belonging - "Come to the homeland, we are all the same...and please overlook the fact that we are wringing the country dry." Yes, as you say, let's look for the similarities that connect us. It's an optimistic mantra that's been heard before, but has fallen flat on it's face. Armenians of goodwill, those with a vision for a future homeland that can welcome all Armenians and provide opportunities for each to grow personally and enrich the nation at the same time, should not fall prey to such hollow rhetoric.
9. H.C.00:20 - 16 January, 2014
You are looking at everything through the prism of politics, Vahan. Which can only lead to mistakes on the substantive level of your thoughts and way of thinking. ---- But even on the political level, the slogan in question was being used in the Diaspora, way before the Ministry of Diaspora started using it, in fact, waaay before Armenia became independent again. On the particular point, the Ministry was actually inspired - or even, educated - by the Diaspora. --- On the non-political level, I already tried to explain that, beyond the words themselves, beyond the formulation of the slogan, the fundamental idea that it carries was the basis of a movement dating back to the beginning of the 19th century (re: Armenian National Liberation Movement), and which - among numerous other achievements -resulted notably in the foundation of the Republic of Armenia and the liberation of Artsakh. --- you and anybody else are of course totally entitled to be political, and it's also fair game to criticize the government, as vigorously as one wishes; what I am trying to say is, let's not mix important ideas, ideals and our vital national aspirations to the political rhetoric and militantism, because that would lead to a re-writing of our own History (something that Ms. Suciyan is fighting against, so admirably, on another front..), and it would lead to self-denial and self-destruction. --- cf. http://hetq.am/eng/news/31951/spi%D6%82rq-inch-spi%D6%82rq.html
10. Vahan12:51 - 16 January, 2014
I can put more faith in the "One Nation, One Homeland" concept more than I can in the slogan - "One Nation, One Culture". The former encompasses a unifying vision of what can happen, while the latter is pure rhetoric used by our pseudo-patriots. This isn't a political perspective on the issue but a realistic evaluation of the situation that exists. To neglect such reality leads to a hollow and dead-end nationalism devoid of any structural significance.
11. H.C.22:08 - 17 January, 2014
Contrary to what the introduction of this interview suggests ("Munich-based historian"), Ms. Talin Suciyan is born, was raised and went to school in Turkey. --- These are objective facts. --- On that basis, it would be interesting to hear how she analyses her relationship with that country, by comparison to her position towards Armenia that she expresses here. --- H.C.
12. H.C.22:35 - 17 January, 2014
The above-mentioned facts should have been at least indicated by the journalist who conducted and published the interview.--- As for the simple question based upon them, it is certainly legitimate, considering that there are as many "spurkahays" as there are countries where Armenians are born, raised and educated. --- Also, everyone should bear the full responsibility of the opinions that he or she expresses --- H.C.
13. Հ.Շ.23:45 - 17 January, 2014
Մինչ իր հարցազրոյցի ներածականը այլ բան ենթադրել կու տայ, իրականութեան մէջ, Թալին Սուջյանը ծնած է, դաստիարակուած եւ դպրոց յաճախած Թուրքիայում: --- Ասոնկ առարկայական իրողութիւններ են (որոնք պէտք է որ գոնէ նշուէին հարցազրոյցը վարող լրագրողի կողմէ) : --- Այդ հիման վրայ, հետաքրքրական կ'ըլլայ լսել թէ ան ինչպէս կը վերլուծէ իր յարաբերութիւնը յիշեալ երկրի հետ, բաղդատելով Հայաստանի նկատմամբ այն կեցուածքին հետ զորս ան կը յայտնէ խնդրոյ առարկայ հարցազրոյցին մէջ: --- Հարցադրանքը վստահաբար տեղին է, որովհետեւ այնքան տարբեր տեսակներու «սփիւռքահայեր» կան որքան տարբեր երկիրներ ուր հայեր կը ծնին, հասակ կ'առնեն եւ դպրոցական ուսում կը ստանան: --- Նաեւ՝ որպէսզի ամէն ոք իր ամբողջական պատասխանատւութիւնը ստանձնէ իր արտայայտած կարծիքների համար: --- Հ.Շ.
14. Vahan12:19 - 18 January, 2014
I agree with H.C. It would have been interesting to read how Suciyan sees her identity as a Bolis Armenian in Turkey. Many Armenians there do not regard themselves as "diasporan" Armenians. Nevertheless, they cannot refute the plain fact that Istanbul was never part of the "homeland". Over the centuries, Armenians from the provinces went to the Ottoman capital for a number of reasons. They formed their own insular community that itself was divided on religious, social and economic lines. In many respects, it existed outside the parameters of "western Armenian reality" and evolved into a hybrid of its own.
15. Talin Suciyan04:27 - 19 January, 2014
I too find the definition "munich-based" alienating. However, it is quite easy to find out that I was born, raised and spent 12 years in Armenian schools in Istanbul. Indeed I only came to Germany for my studies, where I still live and work. Re: the second question, I consider Armenians in Istanbul as diaspora, because of series of reasons that I cannot explain here. As a matter of fact a considerable part of my doctoral dissertation deals with it, putting the emphasis on the history of Armenians in Turkey during the first three decades of the republic (Turkey). My ideas about the history of Turkey or other issues related to Armenians living in Turkey are no secret, I have been writing on these thing for quite some time.
16. Haytoug Shamlian22:14 - 19 January, 2014
Sireli Talin, your work on the subject of genocide-denialism is truly remarkable. Notably, the part where you study how Armenians themselves were or still are forced to practise it... --- If your personal backround is - relatively - relevant in this subject, it is because that could explain why you have not perhaps fully understood the concept of "One Nation, One Homeland". After all, something tells me that they don't teach about the Armenian National Liberation Movement in Turkey, including in Armenian schools... --- You may more or less hear about it, over there, but it's not like you are raised in absolute accordance with it, starting from your early childhood ---- As a competent historian, you should now explore the subject, though, when you find a moment. --- And by the way, said concept is certainly not limited to the relationship between the Armenians of the Diaspora and the Armenians living in Armenia, but it also links every Armenian to every other Armenian, all over the world. --- That is why, for instance, that I certainly consider you as my compatriot, my azkagits. --- You probably read already my reaction to your interview in question, but just in case, here it is : http://hetq.am/arm/opinion/31951/spiւrq-inch-spiւrq.html --- http://hetq.am/eng/opinion/31951/spi%D6%82rq-inch-spi%D6%82rq.html --- (Perhaps I exaggerated a little bit, fine, but you will know how to read it; since you also did the same...)
17. Haytoug Shamlian22:15 - 19 January, 2014
P.S. Let me finish by saying also this : the practical applications of the "One Nation, One Homeland" idea are not situated only on "high" levels, in statehood matters, etc. This concept can and must be applied on all levels, starting with the very basic ones, and also with individual initiatives . Here is how my immediate family have been implementing it, turned it into real deeds and action : http://www.shoushisummercamp.org/ --- (Under "About", 12th paragraph : you will notice that the "slogan" in question is invoked, in its full version) --- ar ayjm, --- Haytoug
18. Jirayr00:11 - 20 January, 2014
There is probably a confusion in Talin's mind about old diaspora and new diaspora versus "diasporas" somehow belonging to the Republic of Armenia and others that do not belong to it. After all, Armenians in all parts of the world have their roots in Armenia, whether they migrated or were displaced 500 years ago or 100 years ago. Unfortunately Talin is not alone both in the Diaspora and within the Republic of Armenia to try to see Eastern and Western Armenians as diverging groups. But if we start on that road, then there is no Armenian Diaspora because Armenians living in different countries are much further away from each other than Eastern and Western Armenians taken as two groups. Without going into a detailed discussion within the confines of a comment, our academics, activists and officials of all levels and walks can do much better by tying to find the common lines and traits uniting Armenians instead of the ones that separate us. Armenian history of the last 130 years is a proof that we succeed when we think and act as "one nation, one homeland".
19. Vahan10:58 - 20 January, 2014
People, understand this one basic reality - there are real OBJECTIVE reasons for the cultural, political and social differences between those who trace their roots to either side of the Arax River!!! The Number One reason is the genocide, eviction and exile of Armenians of the one segment. This reality exists, you don;t have to make an effort to see it. These are different groups!! As to whether they remian divergent or can set an agenda of gradual national unification is another matter.
20. Sam19:00 - 7 February, 2014
Вместе с тем я знаю, что в самой Армении общество испытывает серьезные трудности, стоит перед вызовами – политическими, экономическими, социальными и, почему нет, перед нескончаемой эмиграцией. Чтобы всё это исправить нужно донести до общества, особенно Армянского! смысл этих строк- " Находясь в жопе, ты можешь сделать две вещи. Во-первых- постараться понять,почему ты в ней находишься. Во-вторых - вылезти оттуда. Ошибка отдельных людей и целых народов в том, что они думают, будто эти два действия как-то связаны между собой. А это не так. И вылезти из жопы гораздо проще, чем понять, почему ты в ней находишься. Почему? Вылезти из жопы надо всего один раз, и после этого про неё можно забыть. А чтобы понять, почему ты в ней находишься, нужна вся жизнь. Которую ты в ней и проведёшь" Слова русского писателя, но очень подходят для ситуации в Армении и для его населения.
21. slub10:11 - 2 March, 2014
the entire "conversation" above is nothing more than rubbish of a pretentious nature. armenians do not respect each other and therefore any difference perceived or real will be magnified far beyond its importance. also, the presumptuousness of believing to speak for other people simply because there is a shared armenian heritage is absurd in the extreme. i am of armenian heritage and no one speaks for me but myself. if armenians cannot respect each other on that basis alone, then everything else is simply a worthless fraud. thank you.
22. Berj12:17 - 23 March, 2014
One day a film has to be made about Armenians and how we tend to segregate each other by labeling ourselves by which dialect we speak or where we were born, wether in Armenia or in the diaspora, or wether we are a Christian of the Western Prelacy or the Eastern Prelacy, or which political party we support. It is all absurd and a form of divide and conquer. As long as we hinge onto these differences, we will not be able to uphold our slogan, "One Nation, One Culture". We need unification not segregation. We need to be a global nation with great resources and influence to uphold our "One Nation, One Culture" slogan. I am tired of this type of mentality amongst Armenians and quite embarrassed by it as well. However, I have high hopes that it will change and we will be stronger as "One Nation, One Culture". Maybe a film that shows this struggle will enlighten our people about our nation.
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