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Marine Martirosyan

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

  

Comments (8)

Vahan
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.
H.C.
(1830, that is, of course... not 1930...)
George
.....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.
H.C.
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
Հ.Շ.
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.
Harut
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.
Թլկատինցի
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:
Հայոց լեզվի ուսուցիչ
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;

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