What a Difference a Decade Makes: Some comments on Garen Yegparian’s article published in on October 22 2005.

By Raffy Arzouhaldjian

While I agreed with some of Garen Yegparian’s suggested means of prolonging our identity in the diaspora by owning our heritage and celebrating our diversity–I had a hard time understanding the logical link in the two statemen’s of the following sentence: "For us to reunite on our ancestral lands–we must remain WE."

Let’s look at the facts from a 2005 point of view. Not only has Armenia been a free republic for over a decade–but most of Karabagh has been liberated and turned into an adjoining republic. While recent economic news coming out of Armenia has tended to be good–a closer look at declining birth rates and one of the largest emigrations in recent history leads us to conclude that the country’s demographic make-up has been fundamentally transformed. The fact remains that many more Armenia’s have opted to emigrate than to "reunite" on their ancestral homeland.

Coupling the ideas of prolonged preservation in the diaspora with the concept of reunification (hayahavak) in the homeland (I am assuming that the author is implying that reunification will happen one day when the conditions are better or the rest of historic Armenia is liberated) is a remnant of old diasporan idealism–that frankly no longer holds water with today’s generation. Over 250,000 visitors (mostly diasporan Armenia’s) have visited Armenia last year. A very small minority (mostly from Iran and some from the West) has even opted to temporarily or permanently repatriate there. There is nothing that is stopping diasporans from returning and reuniting with their ethnic compatriots on the land today. As a matter of fact there are many organizations like "Birth Right Armenia" and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation that are actively seeking to promote such a vision.

Whether we consciously choose to remain "diasporics" (a term borrowed from our diaspora expert Khachig Tololyan) and actively strengthen Armenia–or emigrate and actively rebuild the new republic(s)–that is a choice that the post independence generation of the diaspora needs to make. Some like author Krikor Beledian from Paris have even made a choice to remain Western diasporan Armenia’s without necessarily linking their [Armenianism] to the homeland. I understand and accept all of these variations and choices. What I have a real hard time understanding is the hybrid suggested by my friend Garen and others from our generation–which if I am not mistaken goes something like this: "Let’s remain Armenian and different from everyone else–until it’s a better time to migrate to Armenia."

My dear friend Garen–do you really think that there will be a better time to repatriate and/or participate in the development of the nation than today? Do you really think that the demographic changes taking place in the homeland are in Armenia’s favor over time? If your answer is yes–then I respectfully beg to differ with you.

This article does not intend to analyze the most effective means of cultural preservation in the diaspora–which as we all know is a monumental task and requires volumes of work. It merely attempts to make a point–that coupling repatriation to Armenia in the 21st century with prolonged cultural preservation in the diaspora is somewhat of an irrelevant argument. Armenia’s doors are open for whoever wants to move there and participate in the next phase of nation building in many arenas. That said–Yegparian is correct in pointing out that for the rest of us who consciously choose to remain in the diaspora for whatever reason–our means of maintaining our cultural heritage in a 21st century diaspora need to be consciously reevaluated.

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