The Decline of Armenian Nationalism

The 2013 Presidential campaign

BY HRANT APOVIAN

I am a soldier [the nation] is my commander
I obey without question all its orders
with closed eyes I carry out my duty.

Ziya Gökalp

The upcoming elections in Armenia do not bode well for the future of our nation. The absence of viable candidates, the lack of political debate, devoid of any discussion of national survival issues is tantamount to collective suicide.

What is taking us headlong to the edge of the precipice is the lack of discussion regarding matters of national importance, national security, national identity, foreign policy, survival of the republic—our survival as a nation.

Our compatriots in Armenia are waging a war on poverty, trying very hard to make a living and alternately leaving for better prospects abroad. Our people in the Diaspora are waging a war for survival in the midst of upheavals in the Middle East and leaving for better prospects in the West, and eventually losing their identity by the assimilation Tsunami.

The result is a rapid deterioration of Nationalism in our people: That deep seated belief in our national identity, of being one nation, one people, fighting against occupation, against tyranny, against persecution that took a hundred fifty years to erupt and to evolve, that Rafi inspired; The revolutionary fervor that energized revolutionary parties, and vaccinated so many brave men and women is on its way to extinction.

The reality among Armenia’s ruling government circles is that the perception and understanding of foreign policy as to what is in the interest of the survival of the Armenian Nation, is not based on our National Security Interests.

The ill fated protocol treaty signed by the Armenian Government is one instance of a total lack of understanding of national security concerns for Armenia. It will engulf Armenia in a forced capitulation of our national rights and will severely damage the quest for justice for the Armenian Genocide.

The ongoing presidential debates are devoid of a national discussion of foreign policy issues. Depletion of Armenia’s Population is thought of as a propaganda tool used by the opposition, but not a serious threat, and the uneven distribution of wealth in Armenia is looked upon as a consequence of Capitalism in the New World Order.

We are getting ready to commemorate the hundredth Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. This is being looked at as a decisive milestone in our quest for justice at last. The truth is the anticipation for a breakthrough and the subsequent results might be anticlimactic.

The Armenian Government’s perception is vastly different than the Diaspora’s; where one looks at the Centennial as a milestone to demand recognition, whereas the Diaspora is seeking justice and reparations.

The fear is that this kind of discord may jeopardize the goals. The risk is that those who perpetrated the Genocide might benefit from this discord and that their preparations against our onslaught might be far better organized to squash our attempts.

The last burst of Nationalism was when the People of Nagorno-Karabakh took up arms to defend their land at great cost in lives and at great sacrifice. One would anticipate that the national fervor that swept across the Armenian Nation worldwide at the time would be perpetual. However what was won at great cost is no more at the center of our struggle. No serious attempts are made to repopulate liberated territories. No serious diplomatic drive, to acquire recognition for independance has been attempted to this date.

What are the possible causes for the regression in Nationalism?

First: To begin with the World Order has changed and Armenians as citizens of the world – including the population in Armenia – are affected by a universal decline in Ideology. Material pursuits overwhelm Ideological ones and are affecting new generations.

Second: As time passes we have lost our memory passed on to us by our Grandfathers and Grandmothers. Assimilation in its many forms is rearing its ugly head and wreaking havoc in families of both Armenian parents and mixed marriages.

Third: The position of the ruling government in Armenia that was set by the First President of Armenia and which is still pervasive, based on a short sided understanding of what Armenia’s priorities should be; downplaying and undermining any attempt to base Armenia’s security on a vigilant strengthening of our independence and a quest for justice for the Armenian Genocide.

Fourth: The lack of Education of the new generation, the teaching of a proper understanding of historical precedent. Even the current president of Armenia lacks a proper perception of the significance and implications of the term “Genocide” over that of “Metz Yeghern”. The president also needs to be educated as to the true nature and intentions of our neighbors on the West and East Side of Armenia.

Fifth: For a people to be able to pursue national objectives, it has to be in a position of economic and social safety, just enough to allow for the pursuit of nationalistic goals.

Sixth: Admittedly, Armenia has a strong army. However, a strong army should be accompanied by a robust foreign policy; one that can put Armenia on the offensive and overcome the propaganda war waged against us and undermining our Republic.

What is Nationalism?

“Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a nation. There are two major perspectives on the origins and basis of nationalism, one is that primordialist perspective that describes nationalism as a reflection of the ancient and perceived evolutionary tendency of humans to organize into distinct grouping based on an affinity of birth; the other is the modernist perspective that describes nationalism as a recent phenomenon that requires the structural conditions of modern society, in order to exist.”

“The adoption of national identity in terms of historical development, has commonly been the result of a response by an influential group or groups that is unsatisfied with traditional identities due to inconsistency between their defined social order and the experience of that social order by its members, resulting in a situation of anomie, that nationalists seek to resolve. This anomie results in a society or societies reinterpreting identity, retaining elements that are deemed acceptable and removing elements deemed unacceptable, in order to create a unified community. This development may be the result of internal structural issues or the result of resentment by an existing group or groups towards other communities, especially foreign powers that are or are deemed to be controlling them.”

What is direly needed is a new spark by intellectuals and a new leadership to revive the ideas of Nationhood, our National Cause, and a strong sense of national identity uniting Armenians. What is needed is the realization that without strong nationalistic feelings, we as a nation will wither away. We deserve leaders who have the vision and courage to overcome obstacles and put our national aspirations first, and who will establish the necessary structures towards that end.

Authors

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13 Comments

  1. Barkev said:

    I can’t really speak about what’s happening inside Armenia, but I can speak about the lack of nationalism inside the Diaspora, particularly in the Los Angeles region. Armenian men are selfish in Los Angeles and hardly ever give any consideration into helping their race in a meaningful way. They see being Armenian as an asset, but they never feel they should contribute to it by creating or joining organizations for the benefit of the race. They are also wasting their early years going around “having fun” by going to Vegas, partying, and generally just wasting money – instead of having kids and raising families. The general atmosphere is anti-cultural in Los Angeles. If anybody speaks about nationalist sentiments in a social setting with Armenians, they are often mocked for having them. It is seen as corny, dreamy, and romantic – not realistic. Also, so many Armenian women are following their role model Kim Kardashian and are abandoning their race to marry non-Armenians. We can thank you folks like you guys here at Asbarez for promoting that lowlife.

    • Kevork said:

      Barkev, I agree with you completely about that piece of garbage who is supposed to be “Armenian”. Every time I think of it, I am utterly surprised that such a person is presented in Armenian publications in a positive light. The truth is, not even among non-Armenians are they accepted as normal, or anything positive. I am extremely ashamed of my race. That trash family can be all the trash they want, but for us to act like nothing is wrong is what bothers me tremendously. Asbarez is not the only publication which is guilty, it is every Armenian news outlet. Instead of reading how shameful they are, I am reading how “wonderful” they are. Really, is this what we have come to? Speaking of nationalism, that is the only way we are going to even exist outside of Armenia, and the behavior of this publication as well as its sister Armenian Weekly is in the opposite direction. The majority of my comments get deleted regarding this matter, especially at the Armenian Weekly. We have come to be a pathetic shadow of our former self. The young of our times have absolutely no clue what it even means to be a patriotic Armenian and struggle for our rights and identity with their cushiony, pampered existence in the US and elsewhere. This “multiculturalism” nonsense has taken a grip of the western world, and Armenians who fancy themselves as “intelligent” are among its first victims. And I am sorry to say, as mean as it sounds, if we want to survive as a nation in exile outside the borders of Armenia, we will need to grow some balls, go back to our roots, and exclude many “Armenians” from our midst, starting with the Kardashians.

  2. Allen Yekikian said:

    According to this author, “the upcoming elections in Armenia do not bode well for the future of our nation” not because it will solidify authoritarian rule in Armenia, or because it will further reinforce the massive outmigration of the population, or because it will worsen the growing divide between rich and poor, but rather because of the lack of any discourse around “national security, national identity, foreign policy,” etc etc… The problem in Armenia is not nationalism or lack there of. It is democracy. There is no rule of law here. No hope for a better tomorrow. No democracy. No economic fairness. No support from an arrogant Armenian Diaspora ignorant of the problems and interested only in superficial issues like genocide recognition, and nationalism. Nationalism will come when one feels a bond, a connection, a relationship to their state, to their nation. In Armenia, that feeling is largely negative. It is a feeling of dread, fear, hatred, betrayal. The people of Armenia feel betrayed by their homeland, their republic, their nation. Until this situation is resolved, the concept of nationalism will continue to erode here.

  3. Azat said:

    I understand the origin of the passion that is glaring from the words of this article, but I think that at times we in the Diaspora, who live a relatively comfortable existence, forget that for the mostly poor Armenians in the Republic, economic stability and political rights are much more important than ideology. The jobless and the powerless do not intellectualize, but want to live in a “normal” country in which they can enjoy some of what we enjoy in the West. I should also add that nationalism can lead to blindness and of having intellectuals sacrifice the unprotected in our population from the slaughter of our enemy – this happened especially in the 1890s.

  4. Loosineh said:

    so prosperity for Armenian population is a MEANS to an END and not an end in itself! good to know the author cares so much for the basic human rights of Armenians of Armenia!!!!!
    shame.

  5. David said:

    You don’t have to look farther than your own borders to see that “nationalism” also has a very detrimental aspect in that those who blindly follow it tend to believe that they are superior to other cultures. Patriotism does abound in Armenia and the “diaspora” and it’s major attribute is the willingness to defend and protect the country. Patriotism, because it doesn’t demean others is more desirable and equitable.
    Also, I wish Armenians would realize that in the case of “diasporans”, we are not “lost through assimilation”.
    Our host countries, like the US and Canada are so young, they don’t offer the depth of culture of an Armenia and can never replace it. If you call getting educated, working and going shopping “assimilated”, then I guess we are “lost” but

  6. PatCon said:

    Of course nationalism is a recent invention. It wasn’t really necessary until colonial powers decided to claim new territories for themselves. Read Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” and get a clue.

  7. arziv said:

    without nationalism, the nation can not exist. Nationalism gave us the birth as a people and nation following centuries of serfdom, shameless slavery , slaughter and genocide. Without nationalism we will be nothing.

  8. Jack Kalpakian said:

    There are a lot of things that are missed in both the article and the responses to it. First, is the sense of Armenian communal belonging a nationalism? Frankly, that is debatable. Armenians have tended to be communalistic at the social level rather than political nationalists. There is a vast difference between the two, and Armenian history suggests that as long as the political arrangements assured the community’ continuity, the nature of the state and even whether it is Armenian or not mattered less. And by the way, this holds true to this day. Second, Armenian identity is a social construct dependent upon a CHOSEN membership in certain social structures ultimately. It does not have a strict “bloodline” aspect as in many other ethnic or national communities. At best, it has a “soft” bloodline criterion and even that is transmittable on both the male and female lines. Finally, the critics here miss the point entirely. It is not a world of “human rights” versus “nationalism” — frankly, that is the hackneyed, stale discourse that comes out of the anti-national propaganda mills set up by some in the West. The Scandinavian countries have a very strong sense of nationhood, while being welcoming of all. France and Japan and many other advanced democracies have a strong sense of nationhood as well, why is there little complaining about their nationalism? Walk down any commercial area in the United States or any neighborhood for that matter, it is festooned with American flags, and the US actually has a harsher problem with extreme nationalism than Armenia — it is called the TEA party. Yet, we see unfortunate discourse like Loosineh who thinks that somehow fostering Armenian identity is contrary to human rights. In the meantime, it is important to talk about Armenian identity, community, and collectivity rather than use the word “nationalism” which probably does not apply in its commonly understood European origin to Armenian reality at all.

  9. Ayk said:

    @Loosineh, I don’t believe the author isn’t stating that prosperity is needed ONLY to pursue ideology. He is simply stating that generally speaking, one will need to have basic living standards met for themselves and their family, before they can devote time and energy towards the pursuit of national ideology.

  10. Alex Postallian said:

    If Armenia doesnt reform from the crooked politicos,and oligarchics,a Russian influence,no doubt,and think of their,citizens.THEY WILL ALWAYS BE A LITTLE PEOPLE.

  11. Hye Keet said:

    When you cut the tree’s roots, the tree is bound to dry and die.
    Unfortunately, Armenia is our root, and its being cut piece by piece. Through its corrupt government, through its ruling elite (or so called Nobel). Taking their saws and chopping piece by piece.

    Without hopeful Armenia the diaspora is bound to dry-out.

    If we have any hopes for this generation and the next ones, we have to start by aerating and enriching the root.

    Long Live Armenians…Long Live Armenians…Long Live Armenians

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