Diaspora Ministry’s Affront to the Diaspora

The homepage of the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

Armenia’s Diaspora Ministry on Tuesday unveiled a Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum,  which contains so many factual errors, inconsistencies and inaccuracies that if it were meant to bolster the image of the Diaspora, it does the exact opposite.

According to Armenia’s State Radio, “The aim of the Virtual Museum of Armenian Diaspora is to introduce the history of the Armenian people, the present and the future. The project will make the history, cultural heritage and achievements of the Armenian people available to the public, will develop and instill among young people of the Diaspora the idea of Armenian national identity, the feeling of pride for belonging to the Armenian nation, will make Armenian communities of Diaspora recognizable to each other. It also aims to strengthen ties between Homeland and Diaspora, as well as between Armenian communities of Diaspora.”

If this is the stated aim of the Virtual Museum it does more to highlight two very relevant problems plaguing the Diaspora Ministry and its minister, Hranush Hakopyan.

1. The inability to draw a distinction between the Diaspora as a political entity that was borne as a result of being forced to settle in foreign lands due to deportation, massacres and Genocide and the communities that have popped up as a result of individuals choosing—of their own volition—to leave the homeland and settle elsewhere.

2.Not fully comprehending the Diaspora as an entity that has kept the national ideals and aspirations of the Armenian people alive—in some instances, for centuries.

The content of the Web site is nothing more than an aggregation of information that can be culled from a quick Google search or a reworking of Wikipedia entries. It is apparent that there was no substantive research done to accumulate the information and build content for what could have been an extremely worthwhile effort.

Instead, the Web site is a depository of facts and figures, most of them inaccurate and diminishes our Diasporan reality to nothing more than pockets of Armenians living in different worlds.

If, 20 years after Armenia’s independence, the Diaspora is being viewed in such a light, then a critical component of our nation-building process has failed.

In unveiling the Web site, Minister Hakopyan explained that “Armenians are one nation regardless of their residence, and Armenia is the Homeland of all Armenians. This was the idea that became the slogan of the museum.”

Let’s look at the Western US community as an example. Today, this community, which numbers above a million, is a vibrant and diverse entity that has grown through the institutions that were established by those who first settled in the Western United States as survivors of either the Sultan Hamid Massacres or the Armenian Genocide. Even the newest of newcomers should realize that the church, in which they worship or the school they attend was a result of blood, sweat and tears of dedicated individuals who toiled to not only survive and provide for their immediate families, but to harness our national aspirations to build and create communities, in which Armenians can flourish as Armenians.

So, to Mrs. Hakopyan I say that the Diaspora is not a slogan to propel the creation of a haphazard Web site whose content is more an embarrassment than a showcase of our rich Armenian national heritage.

The Diaspora is a political entity that has played a critical role in the national liberation struggle and in state-building. Without it, perhaps many of the achievements of the last 20 years would not have been possible. (In fact, the Web site does not contain a definition of the term “Diaspora”).

The minister, in her message on the Web site, says: “We shall do everything to make the web-site interesting and cognitive, to reflect the phenomenon of Armenian Diaspora with its rich palette and deep essence. I am confident that Armenian specialists creating web-sites in different parts of the world will contribute to the process to make the web-site more interesting [sic.].”

Conventional wisdom would dictate that the aforementioned specialists would have been brought together prior to the launch of the Web site, in order to shed light that the Diaspora is not merely a “rich palette” but rather a critical force in our national identity.

A glaring omission from the Virtual Museum is the Armenian press in the Diaspora. In my humble opinion as the editor of this 104-year-old publication, leaving out the press is a virtual crime for this Virtual Museum.

The Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum is an insult to the Diaspora. It is the Diaspora Ministry’s responsibility to rectify this situation by immediately taking it down and, if the ministry is truly committed to creating this important repository, bring together experts to work on creating a Web site worthy of our national aspirations.

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39 Comments

  1. Aslanian said:

    The Diaspora is the graveyard of Armenian identity. It is the place where Armenians fade into the pages of history. Those brave souls that escaped persecution of Abdul Hamid and the genocide established institutions in attempts to preserve Armenian identity and continue dreaming of an Armenia for Armenians. An Armenia was created with the Democratic Republic of Armenia and the later Armenian SSR. Many Armenians immigrated to Armenia with great sacrifices, committed to continue their lineage as Armenians. I, along with more than half of the Armenians from Armenia, am their lineage. Most of those that stayed in the Diaspora lost their Armenian identity throughout the generations (with the exceptions of certain communities in Lebanon, Iran, etc.) When a fully independent Armenia was established in 1991, a very small fraction returned to partake in it. That shows a clear failure of the idea that the original diasporans tried to pass on. Armenians cannot survive as Armenians throughout the generations in the Diaspora. This can only achieved in the state of Armenia. The Diaspora Ministry of Armenia exists to establish ties between those that can still be saved from assimilation. Digging up the bones of Armenians long past, whose great-grandchildren have no clue what an Armenian is, is not its function.

  2. Zareh Sahakian said:

    Dear Ara,

    You make very good points, and I totally agree with you that the website should have been launched after experts got together and professionally prepared the content of the site. However, may I humbly suggest that an angry attack against the Ministry’s well intentioned initiative, albeit lacking in quality, is not conducive in addressing this important issue.

    I think a quiet and behind the scenes help by Diaspora experts (which they obviously need, and are asking for it) is what contributes towards solving the problem. It is a website that can be modified, reshaped and relaunched. It’s not the end of the world.

    Let’s not create a war when it’s not needed.

  3. HArut said:

    WOW THIS IS SO FUNNY THIS IS NOT US THIS IS NOT HOW WE FUNCTION FOR YOUR INFORMATION
    YOU WANT ALL THE ARMENIANS TO LIVE AND PROSPER IN ARMENIA, LOOKS LIKE YOU DONT MEAN WHAT YOU SAY AND YOU DONT SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, WE HAVE BUSTED OUR BACK FOR HAYASTAN AND NOW YOU ARE ASKING US TO RETURN TO ARMENIA AND LIVE A PROSPEROUS LIFE IN ARMENIA, WHEN A 18 YEAR OLD SOLDIER GOT BITTEN TO DEATH, WHEN YOU HAVE PEOPLE WANNE SCAPE OVERNIGHT BECAUSE OF POWERTY AND NO WORK AND YOUR SO CALLED POLITICIANS OR SHOULD I SAY YOUR MAFIOZOS ARE IN CONTROL AND RAPING SCHOOLCHILDREN AND NOT GETTING PUNISHED FOR WHAT THE SCHOOL TEACHER DID TO THE POOR INOCENT GIRL, AND NOW YOU ARE ASKING ME TO RETURN TO MY HOMELAND, YOU THINK I WANTED TO LEAVE MY HOME LAND NO, WE WERE FORCED BY PEOPLE LIKE YOUR SELF AND DONT FORGET WHAT YOU DID IN THE PAST ALSO THAT PUSHED US TO LEAVE OUR HOMELAND AND NOW U R ASKING ME TO COME HOME, THIS IS MY HOME I MADE THIS MY HOME AND I’KM PROUD OF IT BECAUSE HERE IN THE USA THEY DONT KILL 18 YEAR OLD SOLDIERS IN THE ARMY OR BEAT HIM TO DEATH.

  4. HArut said:

    LADY DONT YOU WORRY ABOUT US WE STAYED ARMENIANS THRU ALL THESE YEARS AND WE WORKED HARD IN OUR LIFES TO JUST PACK UP AND LEAVE AND HAVE ANOTHER DARK EXAMPLE REPEATING TO US AGAIN WHAT WE NEED IS LEADERS FROM THE USA THAT CAN VOTE AND TAKE SEATS IN THE ARMENIAN PARLAMENT NOT SOME MAFIOZOS CONTROLLING THE POOR PEOPLES MISERABLE LIFES.

  5. HArut said:

    HOW LOW CAN YOU GO AND I HOPE YOU ARE READING ALL THESE COMMENTS THAT I’M POSTING BECAUSE IT IS THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH YOU WANT MORE NO PROBLEM I GOT MORE FOR YOU.

  6. HArut said:

    WHY IS IT THAT YOU DONT WANNE PACK UP AND LEAVE WE NEVER ASKED YOU TO COME HERE AND TRY TO PREACH US WHAT TO DO OR WHEN TO DO AND HOW TO DO, SO IT IS BEST FOR US TO SEE YOU LEAVE AND GO, GO WERE YOU WERE BEFORE AT THE SAME PLACE THAT YOU PUSHED OUR OWN PEOPLE TO PACK UP AND LEAVE AND LETS SEE CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG YOU WERE A MEMBER OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY CORRECT WELL I KNOW I’M CORRECT, AND THOSE WERE THE SAME PARTY THAT TOOK OUR LAND AND CUT IT IN FEW PIECES,

  7. Stefan said:

    Armenia has yet to understand the potential of its Diaspora, we have for hundreads of years and in most cases in difficult environemnets kept our identity and our religion, we have so much to offer to our Motherland in many ways. However the clanlike mentality of the ruling “parties” view us with suspicion, as one junior minister said ” We dont want to loose control of the country to outside Armenians) , that is why the policy of handing an Armenian passport is so lame, its a passport to have when you dont want one.

    If they had some vision they could attract so much global talent & investments and would not need 40M handouts like beggars from USA.

    Come they say invest, lets engage, lets put CONCRETE plans in place, its all talk. More and more of the Diaspora is losing hope for a Motherland with a real democratic government, but it seems our history is riddled with similar situations of ruling Clans making decsions for their benefit rathetr than the nation

    They need to make urgent changes in every facet of the government, otherwise we will have another shortlived Ankax Yev Azad Hayastan, and again we will need to compose more songs of freedom for next 800 years hoping we may get it right next time

  8. David said:

    Honestly I don’t understand negativity in this paper. I don’t see anything negative in web site creation; I read initial article regarding this buy Hranus Hakopian with very positive notes about Diaspora, this site will only strengthen those relations.

  9. Avetis said:

    The fundamental problem here is that individuals like Ara Khachatourian are hopelessly stuck in a diaspora mentality. Despite your best efforts, the mediocre diaspora you are so proud about will be dead in a few generations. As long as diaspora Armenians think of them selves as “diaspora Armenians” they have no right to criticize anything about the Armenian homeland. In other words, get over yourselves we have a homeland to rebuild.

    PS: I’m a diasporan, but I think of myself as a Hayastantsi.

    • David Dem. said:

      Mediocre Diaspora? Armenia wouldn’t be where it is now without our help. You better choose your words wisely. We already survived a few generations. We are there to stay and we won’t disappear, you can be sure of that. Actually, we have every right to criticise the evil doings of the corrupt government in Armenia. It is our homeland as well.

    • hayrenaser said:

      I AM HAYASTANTSI AS WELL, NEVER BEEN TO HAYASTAN, DON’T HAVE A SYMBOLIC ARMENIAN PASSPORT TO SEEM PATRIOTIC, LIVED ALL OVER THE WORLD, NOW IN THE USA, SPEAK MANY LANGUAGES, IT PAINS ME TO COMMUNICATE IN OTAR LEZU WITH OTHER ARMENIANS (ONE OF THE SHAMEFUL REALITIES OF A DIASPORA ON DEATH BED… OH YES THEY REALLY DID A GREAT JOB PRESERVING THE ARMENIAN IDENTITY, KETSEN )
      I AM HAYASTANTSI THROUGH AND THROUGH, THIS CONCEPT OF DIASPORA IS NOTHING BUT NONSENSE, PERFECT TOOL TO KEEP UP DIVIDED AND WEAK,
      PEOPLE WAKE UP, IF YOU INTEND TO IMPROVE, ENLARGE AND DEFEND A HOME (LAND), DO IT FOR YOUR OWN AND NOT SOMEONE ELSE’S.
      OUTSIDE YOUR HOME (LAND) SOONER OR LATER YOU WILL BE REMINDED OF YOUR APPROPRIATE PLACE/ORIGIN. DO WE REALLY NEED PROOF OF THIS, OR ARE THERE PLENTY OF EXAMPLES ON THE PAGES OF HISTORY, ALREADY???
      I AM HAYASTANTSI THROUGH AND THROUGH, THIS CONCEPT OF DIASPORA IS NOTHING BUT NONSENSE, PERFECT TOOL TO KEEP UP DIVIDED AND WEAK,
      PEOPLE WAKE UP, IF YOU INTEND TO IMPROVE, RENOVATE AND DEFEND A HOME (LAND), DO IT FOR YOUR OWN AND NOT SOMEONE ELSES, OUTSIDE YOUR HOME (LAND) SOONER OR LATER YOU WILL BE REMINDED OF YOUR APPROPRIATE PLACE. DO WE REALLY NEED PROOF OF THIS, OR ARE THERE PLENTY OF EXAMPLES ON THE PAGES OF HISTORY ALREADY

    • Harry B. said:

      Dear Mr. Avetis,
      I guess those of us “mediocre diasporans” should be thankful that you have decided to join us on our journey to extinction.You can think of yourself as Hayastantsi all you want, but since you live in Diaspora, meaning outside the present day Armenia, you are not Hayastantsi.Not only that,but your condescending attitude towards Diaspora Armenians betrays a deep seated superiority complex reminiscent of the old Soviet Armenian apparatchiks.

      I don’t know what country you live in, but where I live, in good old US of A,I can criticize anybody and anything I want, and that includes those entities and individuals in our Homeland who have taken upon themselves to represent the interests and aspirations of us, Diaspora Armenians.In free societies, those who don’t want to be criticized for their misdeeds, should not be in the public domain.

      And finally, whom do you have in mind when you say “get over yourselves, WE have a homeland to rebuild”? Diaspora Armenians have been helping in that endeavor since day one of Armenia’s independence, often at the expense of the needs of their own communities, and I’m pretty sure will continue to do so to the best of their abilities in the future as well.

      Your idea of helping rebuild the Homeland, on the other hand, seems to be to sit in front of a computer somewhere safe and cozy, endlessly lecturing Diaspora Armenians on what they should or should not do.
      You are, of course, free to express your opinions, but may be, for a change, you should try to offer something constructive that will help bring the two segments of Armenians together, rather than pitting them against each other.

      Best regards,

      Harry B.

  10. Alex said:

    Well done! Imagine the same approach that was taken to building this website, is what underscores the MO of running a country. It is disheartening, at best.

  11. Jirayr said:

    Unfortunately this website is another half-baked project by the Ministry of Diaspora. Most of the sections and heading are empty and show nothing more than the headers/headings. Just another project aimed more at PR for the Minister rather than content and service to the real goal of bringing Armenia and the Diaspora closer. Another example is the Translator website trumpeted by the Ministry which in 90% of cases returns “A server too busy” error…

    Well, its election season in Armenia and everything is permissible!

  12. KYB said:

    Why such negativism? Why? Why couldn’t you such say, “it is an incomplete site and it is full of errors” and let it go? I see nothing to be gained with an unecessary provacative headline which says:
    “Subject: Diaspora Ministry Insults the Diaspora”
    Does it really ? Or do you want us to belive that, to serve your own political agenda Mr. Khachotorian? I see no benefit for our people from this sort of devisive statements similar to what Turks do time to time by defining us “Good Armenians and bad Armenians”. Regardless of all of its shortcomings this step is a positive step to unite 9-10 million Armenians around the world !

    • Erik said:

      Me too! I do not like the website and it does look premature, but the language here is certainly not the right one! No solutions offered, no helping hand in the scene, just some demands! On the other hand, think realistically, when and where in the Armenian history, did bringing “armenian experts” from different backgrounds in one room give any credible products and results? I am certain that too many people with the attitude demonstrated in the article would make sure the effort fails because it would seem to them that someone there in the crowd is just not competent enough….

  13. AraK said:

    Armenia should wash her dirty laundry first before taking the task to introduce us to the world. ““We shall do everything to make the web-site interesting and cognitive” says the minister.
    I have three words for her: silence is golden…

  14. Nigol "t" said:

    Yup, a typical Hagopian accomplishment, (daktsour paktsour). The site looks like a school project prepared by an 18 year old.

  15. Krikor said:

    Ministry of diaspora must/should be run by a diasporan individual with the reasonable knowledge of the outside world.It is a shame that incapable people are running the current government.Very sad ; we should have honest and caring people running it,and i don’t see it now.What? previous president has amassed $180,000,000 ? if this is true nobody with soviet (communist) era people should be in the government.Shame shame bunch o’ AHs.Help the people first bring them up!!!
    I believe Armenia would not have lasted so far after the Soviet breakup without the HELP of diaspora.

  16. Saaten Maagar said:

    The Diaspora Minister unfortunately is one of those remnants of the old Communist system, appointed because of her connections and nothing else. Her mission up to now has been nothing but a disaster and her abilities to lead such a ministry is not even mediocre, it is pathetic. As almost everything these days in Armenia the lack of professionalism is beyond comprehension.

  17. Silvie said:

    Of course I have not seen the website. However I would like to know, is the word ‘Mueum’ is the appropriate word to be used in naming this website? After all the Diaspora is alive and well, and it can only be referred to as a ‘museum’ when the diaspora is no longer there.

  18. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    I agree with you very weak…I red about Iraq…Which i know some how well…Doesn’t give any information…
    All should be removed and find expert people to write…

  19. Jim Menasian said:

    Wow! Well said, Ara. Bravo for speaking out. And that is exactly what the Diaspora has been doing for the past century since they were *forced to leave their homeland: speak out. And against all odds, we the Diaspora have maintained our “Armenianess” while assimilating into our new adopted homelands. In some ways, we, the descendants of Western Armenians, are as proud as any current citizen of the Republic to be Armenian.

  20. John Deran Boyajian said:

    I agree with Mr. KHACHATOURIAN. There are many errors and misconceptions in the ‘Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum’ web site. Some will, I am sure, upset the branches of our Churches. We, Armenians, can do so much better! I hope at some point in time ALL of us will understand and be grateful for the hardships and hard work of the Armenians that came to the USA between 1895 and 1930. Extreme poverty, discrimination, inability to speak English and the trauma of the Genocide were just a few of their ordeals. These Armenians rose through these obstacles, prospered, nurtured our Christianity and our heritage. They became respected and loved by Americans. They opened the door to America for those that followed from Iran, Lebanon, Istanbul, Russia and Armenia. They enabled the financial and other aid that has been sent to Armenia. Likewise, I am sure, that Armenians in other parts of the Diaspora did their part.

    On one occasion I listened to Minister Hakopyan. I found her arrogant in that it seemed she was demanding more money from us with little respect or acknowledgement of what we have done. Nor did she seem interested in finding out about us. In that light and as sarcasm, I am surprised that there is no PAYPAL connection for donations to her Ministry. Do not misunderstand me. I am grateful that there is a Ministry for the Diaspora. Now, once again, let us roll up our sleeves and get to work.

  21. Lusik said:

    Ara Khachatrian always writes about important things. And because they are important, the conflicting comments reflect the complexity of the topic.

    Can you imagine someone reading Mr. Khachatrian’s negative reaction as a reflection of fear that Armenian Diaspora will visit the Website more often than the Asbarez? Isn’t this an ugly thought? Just impossible! Think differently!

    It is unfortunate to read over and over publications that have a sole goal to maintain, if not deepen, the void between the Armenian Diaspora and Armenia. It is not in Armenians interests. Definitely, Ara does not have anything like this in his mind!

    If Armenian officials came up with good idea – welcome the idea. Acknowledge it. If the realization is bad – criticize the realization. But do not kill the seed. Make it grow. Participate, work and try to improve. The easiest thing to do is to take a posture of an insulted, offended person. Just forget about Mrs. Hakobian is trying to insult. It is not the case – 100%! Definitely, Mrs. Hakobian does not have anything like this in her mind! Think differently.

    Always stay positive, when considering Armenia.

  22. MK said:

    Sadly, it is a very bad website,not much thought or planning has been devoted to this website,it needs to be corrected.

  23. Satenik said:

    We should remember that we are ALL Armenians! If the Armenians outside Armenia helped those inside the country , first of all this should be looked upon as a sacred duty and not something to moan about. Armenians have also taken their spiritual strenght from Armenia even if they were not born there .That is why we all feel that we are from Armenia because that’s how we all feel spiritually. We are lucky to have a country and we should do everything we can to make sure it prospers because it is for all of us, for now and for ever. Mistakes happen and as some of more level-headed commentators have already said, it can be corrected. Let’s not be resentful about it. Helping your motherland is like helping your own mother. Do you caount how much you have paid her? I very much hope not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Mourad said:

    Here is an example of a true Virtual Museum. It is about our majestic Gandzasar. This is how the virtual museum of Armenian Diaspora should have been done. I mean the depth of study and presentation: http://www.gandzasar.com/

  25. Greg Nemet said:

    The ministry of the Diaspora is the most unchecked, most missused idiotic wing of the RA Government. It was created to somehow let us in the Diaspora feel un-neglected. The Minister who chairs this position is the most out of touch unbelievably unintelligent person I have ever meat. I speak from a first person perspective. There is nothing in her cabinet that has made any type of worthwhile decision. I am so angry anytime I see her in the news. What does she do exactly?????

    Monuments of Pain and Struggle???? Here we are trying to get the Western media to call it GENOCIDE while this website (loss for words) calls them monuments of Pain, Memory and Struggle. http://armdiasporamuseum.com/303-1-Monuments%20of%20pain,%20memory%20and%20struggle.html

    What is a monument to Memory ??? Huh??? Lets start by at least improving the English of this site.
    Don’t get me started on the Virtual Museum. It is an idiotic collection of generic facts you can easily find on the web, Google, Wikipedia etc.

    I’m sure the inception of this site was a good idea with great intentions but its execution was bellow standard. This site looks like what I made in High School. Its a complete misappropriation of funds. Why was the creator of Armenopedia not called to the table or the people of Armenianhighlands.com or the creators of VirtualAni or the chairs of various Armenian Departments in Universities around the world. What is wrong with these people. As a photographer I’m ashamed at the quality of photos. Hey where are the captions?????

    U want to see a great website created 2 years ago by POLAND. Amazing check this out.

    http://www.commonwealth.pl

    There is even an Armenian section of this site. AMAZING! Did I say it was made two years ago? I was wrong it was made 4 years ago.

  26. Tlkatintsi said:

    A good idea gone wrong? Help Armenia instead of moan and criticize? I wish it were that easy. Take it from one who knows…This minister and her underlings DON’T WANT YOUR INPUT! They could care less.Go bang your collective heads on the wall of official indifference in Armenia and see.

  27. parsik said:

    please, do not attack Mrs. Hakopian personally, I know she is very sincere and hearty personality, she is doing her best under circumstances, it is the the system which she operates in is old and need to be updated, ofcourse she follows her party’s guidlines in some particular criteria , but I can say for sure she mean no harm to Armenians and Armenian cause in diaspora at whole

    • Hay said:

      really?????? do you know her in person?????

      “it is the the system which she operates in is old and need to be updated,” she operates the [corrupt] system, not the other way around. the system will be updated as soon as Hranush and her kind leave.

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