Ding Dong, the Wicked Witch Is Dead

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

The song from “The Wizard of Oz” just kept coming to mind as I sat down to write this article. The contrast between the previous Diaspora Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the current one was just so stark. Mkhitar Hayrapetyan replaced a woman, Hranoush Hakobian, who was the quintessential, stereotypical, dour, Soviet, and unproductive functionary, and by virtue of that fact alone, he is a breath of fresh air.

The Los Angeles area community had an opportunity to hear from the new guy on Monday, July 30 in Glendale’s Pacific Park. Judging by the extensive applause he received, most of the hundreds in attendance were quite satisfied with what he presented.

He seems open-minded with a lot of new ideas. He was welcoming and non-exclusionary, to the point that when a member of the audience recommended barring participation by many of the established organizations for not being supportive enough of the Velvet Revolution, he almost chided the person. Instead, he insisted that any person or group who/which wants to work with the Diaspora Ministry would be welcomed. We also learned that the ministry of 88 employees would be reorganized.

An interesting and relatively novel idea he presented was that there must be MUTUAL assistance between homeland and Diaspora, that the relationship should not be one-way, that both have things to offer the other and can fulfill one another’s needs. A conclusion about this matter ultimately requires a consensus as to the role of the Diaspora and its permanence or impermanence. Relatedly, he was of the opinion that a strong Diaspora begets a strong homeland, and vice-versa.

Other ideas he presented included that education is foremost. Hayrapetyan observed that Armenian school textbooks prepared for diasporan consumption must be sensitive to local variations present in our world-wide communities. He was dissatisfied with the absence of serious research into the causes and roots of assimilation. Regarding this, the answer seems painfully self-evident to someone living in the Diaspora, but perhaps that’s no so easily perceived by someone living on Armenian soil. Conversely, it’s also reasonable to want a more scientific assessment of any matter we want to address.

When the time came for questions, they mostly were not, questions, that is. As is often the case, most people who came up to the microphones had long winded assertions to make, which most often didn’t even end with a question. This ate up a lot of time and led to some dissatisfaction among those who waited their turn to ask, but never got a chance since time was limited and the hall had to be emptied.

About the only oddity for me was the minister’s request that cameras be turned off at the beginning of his remarks, because he was going to address some sensitive material. It remains a mystery to me what he was leery of hitting social media in what he proceeded to present. He had no qualms about the recording of the bulk of the program.

He dedicated serious time and attention to the recent announcement by Azerbaijan that it would be spending large sums of money to organize their “diaspora” as a counterweight to the Armenian Diaspora. While this is certainly a concern, I think he made too much of it. There are two very different processes at play her. When people form and join organizations to pursue shared ideals goals, it makes for a very powerful presence. But, when people are moved by money, with organizing from “above” as it were, their hearts are not in the work they do in the same way as self-initiated volunteers. Just look at how far Turkey has NOT gotten after its three or four decades of “organizing” Turkish expatriates in the United States.

Another minor blip was the overstatement of the numbers of people who participated in solidarity demonstrations in the Los Angeles area. I wish the numbers he cited were real. It’s too bad that those who were the prime organizers of those actions chose to mislead our compatriots in Armenia.

Overall, I was favorably disposed towards this new Diaspora Minister, including his honest and very reasonable observation regarding a number of issues, that because it had only been three months since the new government took office, and quite suddenly at that, many matters are still being analyzed before action is taken.

If you were unable to attend, find a recording of the event and watch it. Or, if Mkhitar Hayrapetyan is scheduled to appear and speak near you, make every effort to attend.

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7 Comments

  1. State of Emergency said:

    Up to now, Hranoush Hakobian was revered each time she visited. Why didn’t anyone have the gull to point out the obvious. Why was she dined and wined if she was such a quintessential, stereotypical, dour, Soviet, and unproductive functionary? The fact is that everyone is guilty of not speaking up when it mattered the most. Few dissident voices were quickly condemned as being rebels and anti-Armenian. Well now were 25 years behind the times. 25 years of lost opportunity due to complete incompetence and utter foolishness!

  2. State of Emergency said:

    Another important way to converge the diaspora with the republic is to adopt Western Armenian as the official language also. Without this symbolic gesture, they will continue to alienate the large diasporan youth. Western Armenian dialect must be preserved and promoted in and outside of Armenia.

    • Ararat said:

      Adopting Western Armenian as the official language of Armenia is impractical and it is not going to happen. Preserving it, however, yes of course and that should definitely be done. I don’t know what the exact number or the percentage is but I would think that even half the Armenian-speaking diaspora does not speak Western Armenian either. In any event, all our differences, however much minor or major, are our wealth and assets (not liabilities) and they should be preserved. Also, what must be eliminated and its widespread practice stopped is the adoption of foreign words, english in particular, with their twisted Armenian pronunciations into the Armenian vocabulary when their Armenian equivalent words already exist in our day-to-day vocabulary.

      • State of Emergency said:

        C’mon, Russian is perhaps the most widely used foreign language by Armenians. I don’t see how you managed to gloss over that one. The troublesome part of it is that politicians, journalists and even academia seem to use Russian words liberally. Almost as if there are no equivalent Armenian words (i.e., concrete, globalatsatsia, auftomat, aftomechena, etc.). The fact is that Western Armenian must be included as an official language right next to Eastern Armenian. Why would it not be? What is the problem with preserving a major part of the Armenian history? Without it, a large portion of the diaspora will feel excluded and alienated from their fatherland. The Ottomans succeeded in decimating Western Armenia and the Soviets introduced Slavic values and, and today Armenia is continuing the tradition by eradicating any visage of the Western dialect. Is there any end to our self destructing ways?

  3. Ararat said:

    You are not saying anything much different from what I said. Western Armenian has traditionally been spoken throughout ancient Armenian provinces in occupied Western Armenia and today preserved in various diasporas throughout the world. Eastern Armenian is the official language of Armenia and also spoken in parts of Armenian diaspora. The two are significant enough that both must be preserved but there can only be one official language in the country with which official communication is performed and that today is Eastern Armenian. Outside the official communication, people can and should be able to use and speak either dialect as they wish. In a true democracy, which Armenia I don’t believe is one yet, decisions must be made by popular votes and whatever people decide that is exactly how it should be. How Western Armenian is taught and preserved people should also be free to decide but there can not be two official languages in a country. Choose one and go with it. But given the fact that Eastern Armenian has been and is the official language of Armenia and deeply rooted among their populations I doubt very much Western Armenian can be considered as an official language in the country. The irony here is that many of those Armenians in Armenia who speak Eastern Armenian today are the descendants of those who spoke Western Armenian not so long ago.

    P.S. I think the Russian language should completely be eliminated from the country except in government circles for obvious reasons. Russian was officially used in the country during seventy years of Soviet occupation so naturally people still make use of some Russian words by a force of habit or due to their lack of knowledge in Armenian. What I meant about foreign words being used and adopted in the Armenian vocabulary, which must be stopped, was that today many common english words are being used as if they are part of the Armenian vocabulary which they are not.

    • State of Emergency said:

      Depending on their past colonial connections, some countries have both their native, as well as, French, English, Spanish, or even Dutch as official languages. Lebanon for instance, has an official language, which is Arabic, and a recognized language which happens to be French. They couldn’t be more apart, but for better or worst, past history and tradition has made French the lingua franca. Same with Russian in Armenia. All we’re merely asking for is the inclusion of Western Armenian into the fabric of the homeland. Where else would the Western dialect belong? If not the homeland, then who would recognize it as a living language? You’re correct in pointing out the irony of the Armenians in Armenia who speak Eastern Armenian today are the descendants of those who spoke Western Armenian not so long ago. That’s perhaps the best argument for what I’m advocating. When those Armenians emigrated to Armenia they were forced to learn the Eastern dialect. They had no choice. Western Armenian was dismissed back then just as it is being discouraged today. The intolerance continues, but it should also serve as a lesson for today’s Armenians. Just as those Armenians forgot their historical dialect in less than a generation, history will repeat itself in a more permanent and damaging way if action is not taken now. Once something is lost, it’s usually lost forever. Western Armenian is a beautiful and articulate dialect for those who appreciate its historical value. The death of it will constitute the death of a great part of Armenian history and culture. Official Armenia should take heed today before it’s too late. Let us not repeat our past mistakes!

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