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Alex Yenikomshian: Diaspora Must Participate in Struggle to Save Armenia

Preserving one’s Armenian identity in the diaspora must be a means to an end. The desire to do so must be imbued with a living rationale; otherwise it is doomed to failure.

Below is an excerpt of a recent interview given by Sardarapat Movement leader Alex Yenikomshian. The interview, conducted by Jirayr Cholakian, touches on the challenges currently threatening the future viability of Armenia, such as mass emigration, and what must be done to overcome them. The excerpt below deals with the role of the diaspora in such a process.

We must all finally realize that preserving the health and viability of Armenia is a problem of the entire nation. This is not only correct in principle, from an all-Armenian perspective, but also from a practical and tangible aspect. If this problem isn’t resolved in a short period of time, we will lose Armenia. If that happens what is all this talk about the diaspora, the preservation of Armenian identity, the Armenian Cause and even western Armenia. It would all be for naught.

Today, the pre-requisite for all those issues is making the tiny Armenia we have today healthy and viable. This must be of primary concern for all Armenians irrespective of where they live. Thus, this must at least be placed on an equal footing with issues related to the Genocide and, if we are to be rational about it, at the top of the list.

The participation of the diaspora in the struggle for Armenia is very important, both for its success and for the diaspora as well.

The correct stance of the diaspora and its activism would be a great moral and psychological boost for those struggling in Armenia and for the people. With its correct stance, the diaspora would strengthen the struggle within Armenia. On the other hand, the struggle of the diaspora would also weaken the position of the authorities and their actions damaging the nation. The authorities could not remain indifferent to criticism and pressure from abroad, whether Armenian or foreign. This is one of their weak points. In a word, we must not think of the diaspora’s role as merely symbolic.

On the other hand, participating in the struggle for Armenia is very important for the diaspora itself. The preservation of Armenian identity on foreign shores, as an end in itself, is not only absurd but also the weakest form of identity preservation.

If the continuity of the Armenian people overseas is not imbued with meaning, it cannot be effective. Sure, schools and culture are extremely important, but they aren’t enough. The struggle being waged to preserve national and cultural identity is essentially a “passive” process and creates nothing. It has been the creative and initiating activities during the history of the diaspora that have always succeeded in instilling new life into the Armenian component of new generations.

This is what first happened in the 1960s and particularly, in the 1970s, with the movement pressing for demands. It occurred in 1988-1994, the years of the pan-national Artsakh movement, the earthquake, independence and war. Starting as far back as the mid 1990, the diaspora has been in crisis mode in terms of giving meaning to the Armenian component.

Two issues may provide meaning to the national-cultural identity of an Armenian living in the diaspora – achievements made in the struggle to eliminate consequences of the Genocide and a feeling to identify with an Armenia that is flourishing and serving as a positive role model. Today, both of them are lacking.

It would seem that the recognition of the Genocide has been transformed into an end in and of itself, while present-day Armenia is repulsive. We should then not be surprised when a young diaspora Armenian asks, “Why should I remain Armenian?”

This is exactly where participating in the struggle for a vibrant and viable Armenia will serve as the best guarantor for new generations of Armenians living overseas to retain their Armenian identity. The desire to creatively make a difference in shaping a new Armenia that they can be proud of, will serve as a living justification to remain Armenian. They will have a real reason to do so.

By participating in the struggle taking place in Armenia, a diaspora Armenian will both be involved in the salvation of Armenia, and work to make it flourish, while at the same time giving meaning, a living purpose, to his/her Armenian identity.

There is also another important factor linked to this. The declaration of independence should have served as an opportunity for bringing Armenians, both in Armenia and abroad, closer together. We all know this hasn’t happened.

For objective and other understandable reasons, sub-cultural differences have cropped up between these two segments over the past decades. These differences have deepened, rather than lessened, due to the near-sighted policies of consecutive governments in Armenia as well as the leadership of diaspora structures.

Not only has work not been conducted to lessen these sub-cultural differences but, as a consequence of chaotic contact, alienation has occurred in many instances. Today, a golden opportunity has been created to fix this situation.

Today, in Armenia, there is a vital need for a collaborative creative struggle. The participation of healthy and active segments of the diaspora in that struggle and the defense of the rights of its people is the best manner to quickly smooth over the psychological differences and to rebuild national unity. There is no better way for the two segments of the Armenian nation to come together than solidarity and united struggle.

Consequently, the participation of overseas Armenian community, or more correctly, that segment of it driven by Armenian values, in the struggle for Armenia is a necessity both in terms of the pan-national front and for all segments of the people, either taken as individuals or collectively. Such participation is beneficial in all cases.