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1st Pan-Armenian conference – getting past the patriotic rhetoric


By Hrant Gadarigian

Yesterday, in Yerevan, President Serzh Sargsyan welcomed hundred of representatives from 151 unnamed Diaspora organizations attending the first Pan-Armenian conference.

Not much is known about the aims of the Conference other than what we read in the president’s opening address - “to promote the development of Armenia-Spyurk cooperation for the benefit of the Armenian nation’s peaceful and prosperous future.”

A lofty goal indeed. But how does this conclave differ from similar conferences in the past that set out similar goals of coordinated action between these two hugely dissimilar realities - the Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora.

President Sargsyan, in his speech, said that “The Armenian nation is bonded together with its national aspirations and Armenia’s destiny.”

He spoke of the need of both these realities to complement each other, to nurture one another.

Who would argue with such sentiments?

The underlying questions remains – does the political will exist on both sides of the equation to find common ground on which to cooperate and collaborate?

Can undefined national aspirations and cookie-cutter patriotic sloganeering serve as a real basis for joint action? Is it enough to state that “we are all brothers and sisters” so let’s roll up our sleeves and work for the common good?

Who’s common good? Those in positions of power in Armenia today?

Nowhere in President Sargsyan’s speech did I come across the ideals of “democracy”, “equal opportunity” or the “rule of law”.

You would have thought that these cornerstones for peaceful and prosperous development would have been singled out at least once in the president’s vision of what type of Armenia we all want.

Rather, he singled out the increasingly marginalized role that western Armenian plays in the lives of Armenians living in the Diaspora. President Sargsyan even promised those at the conference that his government   “will do our best to support the Western Armenian literary language.”

Does he have a magic wand to bring back the writers and intellectuals of the pre-1915 Armenian national renaissance – the Tourian’s, Sevag’s, Siamanto’s and countless others writing in western Armenian?

Can he go against the tide of history and recreate the Armenian communities of the Middle East where literary western Armenian was at least holding its own – where the likes of Hagop Oshagan and other taught in Armenian educational institutions many of which now longer exist or lack students.

Just remember what happened to the Melkonian Institute in Cyprus!

All this patriotic posturing reminds me of Hranoush Hakobyan, the Minister of Diaspora Affairs, when she railed against mixed marriages in the Diaspora and her desire to stem the resulting tide of assimilation.

Luckily, she came to her senses and dropped the issue like a hot potato.

Framing any analysis on Armenia’s future prospects for “peace and prosperity” on such outmoded concepts and conceptualizations is a formula for failure – pure and simple.

There’s a lack of critical thinking here that stymies any prospect for real change in the Armenia-Diaspora dynamic.

The conference organizers may boast that they have succeeded in “gathering 550 representatives from 46 states who represent 151 Armenian organizations of Diaspora”, but whether or not they have the courage and conviction to “think outside the box” remains to be seen.

Let’s hope they do.

Source: Hetq online, 20 September 2011

Added: Friday, September 23, 2011
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