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Following Armenia’s independence, the Armenian Question entered into a new, complex and extremely volatile phase, which has required mobilizing and activating the potential of all Armenians. Some attempts are being made to find answers and propose solutions to the current most complex challenges. One such attempt has been a recent initiative to establish abroad (not on RoA territory) a Western Armenian authority in exile – representative bodies of Western Armenians (a National Assembly and a Government – “a National Council”.) Similar initiatives are known to have taken place in the United States and France as well. The latest of them was the “Appeal to the Descendants of the Armenians Who Survived the Genocide in Western Armenia, for Establishment of Their Own Representations in Exile”, published in the “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” official daily of 25 October and “Golos Armenii” Russian-language newspaper of 31 October 2006 (both Yerevan-based publications), which was signed by a number of well known representatives of the intelligentsia and social-political personalities, including Ara Abrahamyan, Narek Abrahamyan, Armen Jigarkhanyan, Sos Sargsyan, Vahagn Dadrian, and even by some state and military officials, such as the NKR Prime Minister and the Advisor to RoA Defense Minister. Despite the fact that the latter have underscored that they signed “in individual capacity”, ostensibly they could not have done so without the consent of their superiors – which actually bestows an altogether serious tone to this initiative.
The first consultations on founding a Western Armenian plenipotentiary Authority in exile were held in Paris (Sevres) on 11 and 12 December 2006. (For information on this see “Zartonk” of 5 January 2007, “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” of 06 January 2007 and “Golos Armenii” of 20 January 2007.) The initiative has come mainly from some Diasporan Armenians.
What is at issue?
Indisputably, the Armenian Diaspora is disorganized and, as a result, in a weak condition. The political activists, including traditional political parties, engage but only a small fraction of the Armenians. The organising of the Diaspora, including the electing of representative bodies, and formulation of a well thought-out programme and unified budget have long been an imperative. But organizing and strengthening the Diaspora in this way is one thing, and creating a Western Armenian authority in exile an altogether different one, and, we are convinced, an undertaking fraught with problems.
There are a few particularly unacceptable stipulations in the “Appeal”. One of them says (as quoted from the English version of the “Appeal”): “a distinct distribution of duties and roles between the segments of the whole Armenianhood could contribute to a successful solution of the national tasks, enable normalizing of the relations between the Republic of Armenia and its neighboring states, which, in its turn, will reduce its dependence on possible consequences of the international political confrontation.” On this basis, one may presume that if the Western Armenian would-be Government in Paris, Moscow or Washington D.C. were to summon a session and, according to shared tasks and responsibilities (i.e., “a distinct distribution of duties and roles”), were to raise the issue of the return of the territories of Western Armenia or that of material compensation, then Turkey would not have grounds to accuse the Republic of Armenia of anything, since it could be asserted: “What does Armenia have to do with this? After all it is not Armenia which has raised this issue!” Following this interpretation, the RoA Government would deal only with Artsakh and the other “local” issues, etc.
This idealization is simply naive. When France adopted a resolution on the Armenian Genocide in 2001, Turkey retaliated against Armenia with the tightening of the visa regime for RoA citizens, blocking air traffic and making new threats. The Turks fully realize that at this juncture it is the Republic of Armenia that is of paramount importance – an actually existing state on an actual territory. Such sleights of hand wouldn't succeed in deceiving anyone. Turkey is also aware that as long as there exists the Republic of Armenia and there exists people living on that land, any serious threats (if not militarily, then at least diplomatic, informational and other fronts) to it will emanate just from there! Our compatriots living in the United States, France, Russia or elsewhere are only secondary, if not tertiary threats to Turkey. If Turkey and Azerbaijan succeed to jointly destroy the republics of Armenia and Nagorno-Kharabagh, they will recognize the Armenian Genocide the very next day, because this recognition will be of no consequence to Turkey any longer. The Armenians in the USA, Europe or Australia may organize demonstrations and rallies all they want – these will be of no significance. Nothing that the Armenians may do then will matter any longer since there won’t be a body, a state, to which the Turks would have to account to – literally or metaphorically.
Another point of the “Appeal” stipulates (as quoted from the English version of the Appeal): “the present Republic of Armenia which was established after the second collapse of the Soviet-turned Russia and on a part of the territory of Eastern Armenia, on the territory of Soviet Armenia, twice as little as the first Armenian Republic, is de jure not an assignee of the first Armenian Republic and has no authority from the representative bodies of the Western Armenians to represent their interests and what is more is not able of undertaking the solution of the specific issues related to the fortune of the descendents of the Western Armenians and Western Armenia.”
We must observe that the statement that the RoA “is de jure not an assignee (i.e., successor) of the first Armenian Republic”, is a very dangerous one, and the entire paragraph above is completely inaccurate. Why is it that the RoA cannot have jurisdiction to represent the interests of Western Armenians? If we follow the logic of that assertion of the “Appeal”, we will arrive at the conclusion that Artsakh should be defended only by the Artsakhtsis, Syunik only by the Syunetsis and Western Armenia only by the descendents of those who lived on that land. But the Homeland – Armenia – is one: Western Armenia, Eastern Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk and Nakhijevan each one and all together constitute Armenia. This applies to the RoA and NKR also in the political sense, and to Javakhk at least demographically, and to all other cases historically. The Gyumretsi, Vanadzortsi, Yerevantsi or an Armenian living abroad have as many – no more and no less – national rights and moral responsibilities, say, for Artsakh, as does the Artsakhtsi himself, because Artsakh is a homeland of the Armenians, part of the land of Armenia. By the same token, the Artsakhtsi, for example, is morally responsible for the native land in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor or Van. However, the political situation and objective conditions may give different shapes and forms to the fulfillment of these rights and responsibilities.
Let us suppose for a moment that a Western Armenian authority in exile did get established after all; then it is imperative to clarify: will it be capable of playing a role, or how seriously will it be treated?
First, the Armenians do not need several governments, one is fully sufficient for us. Evidently, an artificially created authority cannot play a serious role, because it will not have the status or the other state jurisdictions (attributes) of an internationally recognized sovereign state. It is a different matter that, unfortunately, today the RoA does not take up the mission and responsibility of dealing with the question of Western Armenia. In fact, some of the postulates of the “Appeal” correspond to the RoA national security strategy adopted recently (February 2007) by the RoA Government. Therefore it is possible to assume that our government is somewhat agreeable to these sort of initiatives. The fact that the “Appeal” was signed by the aforementioned high ranking officials, and its publication in “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” official newspaper testifies to this.
The concept of “Western Armenia” is completely missing from the RoA national security strategy, which is a serious mistake. It goes without saying that the Artsakh issue is a constituent part of the Armenian Question, so why should not the issue of Western Armenia be stated along with it? Forced separation of Artsakh from Armenia and its forced annexation to Azerbaijan were the direct consequences of the Armenian Genocide, as was the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Nakhijevan. Accordingly, if the fact of genocide is recognized so must be the necessity for overcoming the consequences of it.
The Armenian government too has its share of fault in this; it failed or did not want to present the issue comprehensively and in a complete manner. What was the purpose of the Armenian Genocide? It was not so much for the physical extermination of the Armenian ethnos as it was for the elimination of Armenia – a country, which had all demographic, ideological, political and cultural capacities and potential to re-establish an independent statehood. The bottom line is that the Genocide of Armenians was aimed against the possibility of restoring Armenian Statehood. Essentially, Armenians got exterminated for being the very bearers of that probability and capability. The annihilation of Armenians in the parts of Ottoman Empire lying outside Western Armenia and Cilicia, aimed likewise to nullify any possible future claims by the Armenians to their ancestral land. Thus, the objective was the destruction of Armenia and the means – annihilation of Armenians, first and foremost, on their own land in Armenia. Exterminated were the elite of the Armenian people, the social structure, the old and well-ramified structures of the church, education and community life – the entire Armenian culture having had evolved on that land. Most importantly, the consequence of the Genocide was the loss of a territory of land which had been home Armenians for five thousand uninterrupted years. Consequently, the Armenian Question, in essence, is a territorial issue, a land issue altogether. And the Artsakh issue, after all, is a territorial issue. By presenting the Artsakh problem merely as the right to self-determination of the people inhabiting it, we weaken our stand on the negotiations front in particular and in the overall Armenian Question in general.
It is important that we understand the essence of the Armenian Question accurately – it has been and remains in the creation of viable political and territorial conditions for the Armenian people to live freely and independently on its native soil of the Armenian Highland. There is only one solution to the Armenian Question – to restore the Armenian statehood if not in entire Armenia (350,000 sq/km), then at least on a substantial piece of it, such that safe and long term existence and development of Armenian civilization can be secured. In other words, the Armenian Question is about the security of the Armenians, and it requires the provision of two prerequisites: The first is the creation of a comprehensive and strong statehood, and the second is the territorial guarantees fortifying the security and viability of that statehood.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armenian Question became reanimated and started to proceed in a somewhat haphazard manner. The transformations of the Armenian Question were vividly reflected and continue to be reflected in the following four directions:
These four directions are very much interrelated; each containing great dangers, and a defeat in any one of them could potentially devastate all Armenians.
Thus, the Armenian homeland is one and indivisible. This cannot be subject to argument. The issue is in the political and legal expediency of the following: whether or not to establish a Western Armenian government, which will regard itself as a body legally commensurate with RoA and which will try to represent issues concerning Armenians from the perspective of its own strategy and assessment of the reality, or to create empowered representative bodies of Armenians living abroad – bodies ostensibly better able to support progress on issues facing the Armenian nation.
In our opinion, it is preferable not to set up such a “second” parallel governmental structure. From the perspective of legal expediency, we must note the following:
Armen Ayvazyan, PhD in Political Science Director, “Ararat” Center for Strategic Research
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