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Hrant Gadarigian

Yerevan Chronicle: “We should thank the Turks for the Genocide...”

The following is a true story...unfortunately.

I had just finished a day’s work translating for Hetq. Around 4:30, I decided to take a walk outside. It looked like another great day in Yerevan; warm and sunny.

Making my way down Abovyan Street, I stepped into a well-known bookstore off Republic Square. I headed towards the Armenian history and literature section towards the back.

Seated were some of the sales staff – two women, probably in their late twenties, and a middle-aged one. Not surprisingly they were complaining about the state of affairs in Armenia.

“They say a nation gets the government it deserves,” commented one.

“That’s right. Armenians like to boast about their ancient civilization and all, but can you call what we’re living today civilized?” her colleague replied.

“It’s so sad,” said the first. “But at least we Armenians are a clever bunch. We make do with the measly wages we make.”

“You know,” the middle-aged sales clerk chimed in, “We should send a letter thanking the Turks for committing the genocide. As a result, Armenians were scattered around the world and now they can send us money here in Armenia.”

I almost dropped the book I was leafing through. I couldn’t believe what I had just overheard.

“It’s the truth,” said the middle-aged clerk. “It may sound a bit crude but that’s what I think.”

The younger clerks began to giggle. I felt an intense impulse to go over and choke the woman.

I weighed my options. What would be the proper response to such an ignorant and uncompassionate comment?

I felt like turning to the woman and in the most polite voice I could muster saying, “Perhaps you should pick up one of the many books on the Genocide you sell here. Take a look at some of the photos of the death marches and the starving orphans left parentless. Maybe you’ll think before uttering such crap.”

Now, I am confident that this woman is in the minority when it comes to such thoughts. But I am equally sure that there are many who think like her here in Armenia. You just have to scratch the surface.

Do all citizens of Armenia regard “outside” Armenians, many descendants of Genocide survivors, as convenient money faucets? Is that how many regard me? an “outsider and descendant of Genocide survivors.”

It makes your skin crawl...at least that’s how I felt at that moment.

Even more unreal was the fact that right down the street, representatives of the AGBU were staying at the Marriott Hotel. There was even a big AGBU sign outside on the sidewalk announcing the fact.

The cafe tables outside the hotel were full of what I assumed were AGBU members sipping their drinks and conversing in Western Armenian. A lone local resident was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk selling nuts from a plastic bag.

An eerie combination indeed...but one that kind of sums up our present reality in a crazy sort of way. Perhaps the sales clerk was right. Who am I to judge?

The AGBU – one of the biggest Armenian money faucets around. I’m sure the bookstore sales clerk would have been overjoyed that her wish was coming true.

One thing for sure, the AGBU and other outside donor sources should demand a greater degree of accountability from the Armenian government to see that the money reaches its intended targets.

Maybe that ignorant sales clerk thought I was one of those rich AGBU types and she wanted to crack what she thought was a clever joke at my expense. If so, she’s doubly an asshole.

It’s just another sad commentary on the gulf that divides the realities of present-day Armenia and the global Diaspora.

Both sides have yet reached a point of mutual recognition.

Now the sales clerk in question evidently was aware of the 1915 Genocide, but for her it was just another tragic page in the history of the Armenian people; one that she believes has a "silver lining". That’s to say it’s not an integral part of her personal identity, of who she is and where she comes from. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have used it as a reference for jokes.

I just wonder how many others think like her when they walk up the hill to the Tzitzernakapert Genocide Memorial and Eternal Flame every April 24th.

Please tell me I’m paranoid. Please tell me that we, as a nation, can overcome the stereotypes on both sides of the divide and reach some common understanding as to how we can cooperate and build a better Armenia for us all.

Comments (10)

All of u be patiantarmenia is in its infantsy to will make us learn improve get better
Me as a western armenian Thank you for the thing that you have done to her . And i wish that one day we western and eastern armenians understand each other more .
It's poor choice of words. I don't condone it but it sounds like the woman was trying to be sarcastic about their government and you took her words literally. Armen
Baron Hovanissian
I hate Hayvanstancis, thieves, plain and simple. They deserve their fate. Bunch of crooks, scammers, and retards. I married and thanfully divorced one. I pray to God everyday that he gives Putin the strength to send all of HAYVANSTAN to Siberia. Mer Vairenik.
Aramazt Kalayjian
I'm sorry to say but I agree with the clerk. We are a diaspora society spread across many cultures in many countries. Our wealth exists insofar as we are organized to benefit from this fountain of cultural ambassadors. If we are not able to connect our people with our homeland physically we resort to sending money there. It's plain and simple. I realize this is a blog, but its somewhat sensationalist and emotional to judge this harshly instead of creating a positive image for diaspora Armenians to find value in migrating back here with the idea of creating a future for our small nation.
So Aramazt, you're saying that the Genocide was a GOOD thing? That 1.5 million Armenian were killed and the bulk of the Armenian homeland desecrated and emptied of Armenians? Is this what you are agreeing with? And all because now, the descendants of Genocide survivors, can bail out Armenians in Armenia???Is this your warped logic? Pathetic and tragic...I believe the diaspora can do much more to assist Armenia on the road to democracy and development, but not on the bones of our dead martyrs!!!!
It's shocking to read that there are people in Armenia who harbor such thoughts and have the nerve to express them openly in public. And to think we are still looking for enemies on the outside when it is people like that bookstore clerk who are the malignancy, eating away at the moral fabric of Armenia. I would have expected such a comment from a Turkish nationalist and not an Armenian. Hazar Amot!!!
Aramazt Kalayjian
Well said, Anton. Why can't we poke fun at our history like the Jes and become paragons of the comedy and entertainment world? We have one country, the situation here doesn't afford the same free-business practices and job opportunities as many in the west. The way this article is written, it seems the the writers intention was to incite an emotional response from the readers. If that was its goal, it succeeded. This article still does not address the oligarchic strangle-hold the business climate seems to be suspended in currently, does not address the need for jobs and real democracy, does not address the need for a president to be elected by the REAL choice of the people as opposed the bought votes and election fraud. I am a descendent of western Armenia and am sickened by the current general malaise self-inflicted upon Armenian society as much as the acts of genocide committed against us. We've lost as many people from our population during the genocide as we have had out-migrate during our independence! It's time for people to wake up move to Armenia with your family and see the big picture! Stop being so emotional and come over, surja dake!
I agree, now lets do this!
Well, well, well, if someone in California says the same thing what the lady in the bookshop had said, then definitely any critical remarks could be regarded as a violation of free speech. This is typical idiotic and stereotyped thinking of California based ex-Hajastanci homeless compatriots, or those who travel from big democracies to HAYASTANI HANRAPETUTHJUN and regards themselves as Christophor Colombus among America's aborigens. JUST SHUT UP YOU BUSTARDS. Or.... come here to live and suffer as ordinary Hajastanci do.

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