This Is the Party I Knew

BY HENRY ASTARJIAN

This is the party I knew, this is the party I grew up with, this is the party that shaped my political conviction, and this is the party I love. Men with guts, attempting to revolutionize the status quo, have finally stepped up to the plate to resurrect the old roadmap and coin anew a healthy, viable, and effective national manifesto directing the nation to a clear path to viability and success. Once again, the Tashnagtsutiun has become Hai joghovurti ightseri ardahaydiche (the implementer of the wishes of the Armenian nation). Once again it is leading the nation.

This is the Tashnagtsutiun I knew, this is the party that for decades awakened and led the nation through disastrous times to preserve its ethnicity, and to keep demanding what is rightfully ours: our lands. This is the party that, together with other forces, liberated Karabakh. This is the party of Kristapor, Rostom, and Zavarian. This is the party of Hrair Mahroukhian. This is the party of the fedayees who picked up their mauzers to fight the Ottoman tyranny. This is the Tashnag Party!

That much for excitement! With this roadmap, the work is cut out for the party and the nation. The party will have to prepare and mobilize the nation to face the rigors of change, bravely and with healthy reasoning. It is not an easy task; to bring the entire nation under one tent is a major undertaking. There are those who are so comfortable with where they are that they would resist any kind of change. There are the fainthearted who get scared of their own shadow, and who would not like to rock the boat. And there are those who have not yet shed their slavery-obedience mentality, ingrained in their psyche by the Ottoman tyrant. They are still saying Padishahim chok yasha (May you live long my Pasha). This kind of a mentality is nourished by the institutionalized church, which is true to its past (when fedayees, “the trouble makers,” were defending the hamlets and the Armenian families, some of the clergy and pastors were handing them over to the Turkish authorities, so that their community would go unharmed).

That kind of prayer is still a part of our liturgy, where the priest says a “long live” prayer for the president rather than the country. Imagine if you will a Baptist church in Atlanta, Georgia praying for George W.’s or Dick Cheney’s success and long life. That is preposterous. But that kind of thinking, subjugation, still prevails in the minds of armchair pseudo-intellectual politicos who may consider the roadmap to be impossible to implement, because it clashes with the policies and interests of the big powers, and because we are a small nation. That is a false argument. Being effective has little to do with size; a virus, which cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope, is more virulent than an elephant.

Finally there are those who consider Etchmiadzin not only their spiritual home, but also their political hub, and the Catholicos, whomever he might be, the supreme authority—an Ayatollah of sorts. They fail to realize that Etchmiadzin is governed by a constitution imposed upon it by the Tsars some two centuries ago, hence its subjugation.

Similar provisions of sahmanatrutiun (constitution) was imposed on the Azgayin Zhoghov in Istanbul by the Sultan in 1864.

To implement the roadmap, one has to attempt to educate the clergy by highlighting their religious obligations, rather than allowing them to meddle in secular political matters.

The Church has converted us to a millet (an ethnic religious sect); that is what the Turks called us, and that is what they forced us to accept through our ecclesiastical structures, and that is what we should reject if we are to make progress as a viable nation and a sovereign people.

Some years ago when an armed conflict erupted between the Barzani and Talabani Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, TV 7 needed a commentator, so they called Father Dajad, rather than the Hairenik or the AGBU, to get what they needed. They identified Armenians with their church, and not by its secular organizations. Examples are abound, but I just remembered this one. It is the church’s position to be at the forefront in order to subjugate the nation to its will, and steer it away from secularism.

Some months ago, a very high-ranking clergyman’s efforts to recruit me to write articles in support of the church failed. He said, and I am paraphrasing: “… since the political parties are weak, this is the time for the church to move forward to fill the vacuum.”

The church should not project itself as a leader of the Armenian nation. Their mission is to teach the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his philosophy of love and forgiveness.

The roadmap has to keep the churches at bay; they have a numbing effect on the revolutionary spirit.

With this roadmap, the Tashnag Party has asserted its authority and leadership of the nation. Though the diaspora supports them, they still need allies and allegiances, and to put an alliance together is a monumental job.

With power comes responsibilities, and it is the party’s duty to do its best to live up to its promise to the nation outlined in the roadmap.

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7 Comments

  1. Nareg Seferian said:

    The Tashnagtsoutiun has been functioning in Armenia since independence, and even prior to that. They were a part of and party to Kocharian’s time in power and all that it entailed. Why this “roadmap” now should be inspiring in any way is incomprehensible to me.

    The role of the Church is very unique in Armenian life, and it has most certainly extended to the political sphere in the past, as it does so today. The very recent public statements of Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, for example, are a reflection of this.

    I do not appreciate the author disparaging the Armenian Church, highlighting its shortcomings, while refusing to apply the same scrutiny to the Tashnagtsoutiun.

  2. Viken said:

    So Mr. Seferian doesn’t like someone telling the church to stay out of politics. Well, I have news for him: the Church is supposed to stay out of politics according to every rule and convention, including what our kings had decreed in the earlier days. It was king Pap that made the rules of conduct for our Church (like not going elsewhere to get anointed as Catholicos, like not having nuns, like not having more than one priest per parish, etc…). The Tashnagsoutiun is not a religious organization. It is a political party and is not subject to the same scrutiny, no matter what the likes of Mr Seferian wish. I know, having seen them for the past 3-4 decades, that the likes of Mr Seferian would be happier if the Tashnagtsoutiun never existed to start with, but too bad: it is here and it intends to remain here way beyond the century.

  3. Garo Avedis said:

    this the best articale to decribe our shortcomings as a nation,very good articale and to the point,I am in total agreement with the author.

  4. Nareg Seferian said:

    Baron Viken, I completely agree to the separation of Church and State and, indeed, the Armenian experience of Bab Takavor in the eighth century occurred a good seven hundred years before matters came to a head in Europe during the Reformation.

    But this was when we had a state. Whenever Armenia has not been a state – which is most of our history – the Church has taken on social and political matters out of necessity, as it continues to do so in the Diaspora.

    The sort of scrutiny which Mr. Astarjian is applying to the Church in his article ought indeed be reserved for political parties. My argument is that he is leaving out certain facets of the Tashnagtsoutiun, and how it functions in the Homeland, that’s all.

    I am not the kind who wishes the Tashnagtsoutiun never to have existed. Far from it. However, I would like to bear in mind as fair an assessment as possible of what this great Armenian establishment has carried out over the past century and more in general, and over the past two decades in Armenia in particular.

  5. vartan said:

    Well, if i’m not wrong, what Mr Seferian pointed here is that the Armenian Church was for centuries both the “state” and the repository of the Armenian identity. Therefore the Armenian Church have at least the same right of making political statements that the Tashnagtsoutiun have. A big portion of the Armenianess share this point of view.
    Mr Astarjian wrote:
    “The church should not project itself as a leader of the Armenian nation. Their mission is to teach the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his philosophy of love and forgiveness.”
    If this is the whole truth, let’s burn every armenian history book out there…

    The other thing Mr Seferian remarked is that Tashnagtsoutiun was a partner of the Kocharian administration. I have to say I never heard no voice against the shameful levels of corruption of the time (the present government is just its heir). Who said “Voch/No”?. I mean, we have to redefine the significance of the “tavajan/traitor” word. We have to rethink what are the real NATIONAL INTERESTS, redefine what is the ARMENIANESS.

    I’m not acussing to no one. I’m just dreaming about a strong, united, open minded, self-conscious Armenianess. That’s all.

  6. Pingback: This Is the Party I Knew | Asbarez Armenian News | armeniatoday

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