The ARF at 120: Society and the ARF

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the founding of Armenian Revolutionary Federation–one of the oldest and most influential political organizations in Armenian history. On this occasion, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies and the Armenian Review have organized a commemorative academic conference on the ARF’s history, current activities and future prospects.

The conference titled “The ARF at 120: History in the Making” will be held on December 4 at the Davidson Conference Center on the campus of University of Southern California (Driving Directions). The conference will critically examine such key issues as socioeconomic aspects of ARF’s activities in Armenia; role of women in the ARF; the challenge of functioning as state-based political party and a Diaspora-wide political movement; and assessments of historical developments and issues of current relevance.

The day-long event will feature academics, researchers, professionals and activists from Armenia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States, who will present nuanced and multi-disciplinary analyses of ARF’s activities in celebration of its 120th anniversary.

The conference will be webcasted live on the day of the event on arf120.com. The event is free and open to the public but the organizers are strongly recommending attendees register ahead of time. Register online at arf120.com.

Today, we introduce the speakers and present some of the topics to be addressed during the second panel of the conference, titled “ARF and Society.”


Stephan Astourian (Moderator)

Prof. Astourian is Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program and Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at the University of California-Berkeley. He has published a number of articles about the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Ottoman and Azerbaijani history and politics, and current issues relating to Armenians in the homeland and the Diaspora. He was the past editor of JUSUR: The UCLA Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. He is a member of the Academic Board of the Zoryan Institute, of the Advisory Committee of the Caucasus and Central Asia Program (Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, U.C. Berkeley), and of the Center for Contemporary Armenian Studies (Paris, France).



Arsen Stepanyan

Arsen Stepanyan is a civil society practitioner with a decade of experience in civic activism and civil society development in CIS, Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. He has extensive experience in providing trainings and consultations to public and nonprofit organizations on constituency relations, community mobilization, policy advocacy and other civil society-related matters. In Armenia, Mr. Stepanyan worked with the National Parliament, Ombudsman’s office, different executive branch ministries and local government institutions, media, and NGO. Mr. Stepanyan regularly works with UNDP, OSCE, USAID, and EU-TACIS. He has an MA in Political Science from the American University of Armenia and a BBA from Yerevan State Economics University.

Role of youth in Armenian political parties

The paper is a part of broader research on youth activism in different civil society organizations. The research draws lines between youth mobilization strategies and objectives of three Armenian civil society groups: political parties, non-governmental organizations, and social movements. This paper observes the work of the youth branch of one of Armenian Parliamentary Parties by looking at their interrelations and expectations, external outreach strategy to youth as their constituents, and tools and tactics the youth organization uses to achieve its objectives. The paper presents recommendations to improve the constituency relations work targeted at Armenian youth. The review is conducted years before the next Parliamentary elections in Armenia when all major political parties unofficially started their campaigns.



Maria Titizian

Maria Titizian currently serves as Director of the Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation in Yerevan, is Vice President of Socialist International, and represents the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun at the Socialist International Women. Prior to moving to Armenia in 2001, she worked at the Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation and served as president of the Armenian National Committee of Toronto and later as member of the board of ANC Canada. While in Armenia she has worked as a writer, editor, and translator, as President of the ARF’s Women’s Committee and was a founding member of the Women’s Coalition of Armenia.

Women in the ARF: Past, Present, and Future

The role of women in the ARF-Dashnaktsutiun throughout its 120-year history will be examined over three distinct time periods: the National Liberation Movement 1880s-1921; Exile from Soviet Armenia and the formation of diasporic communities 1921-1991; and the re-emergence of the party after independence 1991-present. As part of this study, the role of ARF women in the formation of the First Republic 1918-1921, and during the Karabakh War of 1991-1994 will also be briefly examined. This paper will show that the absence of ARF women in key decision-making bodies of the party has served as an impediment to democratization and development in the Republic of Armenia and to the deficiency of women’s perspectives, views, and experiences in the Diaspora. Emphasis and focus will be on practical and prescriptive measures the party needs to adopt in terms of elevating women’s roles to meet the current challenges of the Armenian nation. The principle of human rights, including the granting and exercise of the political rights of both men and women, is an indispensable precept of any democratic framework. Therefore, as part of its political agenda, the ARF must become more inclusive and ensure the creation of a level playing field that will remove the subtle barriers to the advancement of women within its party structures.



Ara Khanjian

Ara Khanjian is a Professor of Economics at Ventura College and a Lecturer in Money and Banking at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks. He has lectured economics at different universities, including Hofstra, Saint John’s, and New York Universities. During the past two decades, Dr. Khanjian’s research interest focused on Armenia’s economy. In 1991, he worked at the Economic Institute of the Economic Ministry of Armenia, developing economic legislations, such as labor laws. His current research interest is public finance, including taxes and pension reform. Dr. Khanjian is a former editor of the Armenian Journal of Public Policy. He holds a PhD in economics at New School University in New York and received his MA in economics at Queen’s University in Canada and BA in economics at University of British Columbia.

Pension Reform, Income Taxes and Open Borders: Conflicting Positions of the Government of Armenia and the ARF

Just before becoming prime minister, Dikran Sarkissyan published an essay titled “The End of the State,” where he argued that the role of the private sector would drastically increase, while the role of the government would decrease.  Shortly after he became prime minister, Armenia, similar to the rest of the world, experienced economic crisis, which required an increasing role of the government in the economy. However, this article argues that in areas, such as pension reform, income tax law, and government’s role in an open border economy, Sarkissyan’s laissez-faire policies become apparent. The ARF with respect to all these three areas criticized the government’s position and advocated positions, where the government plays an important economic role. According to the ARF, the government’s laissez faire policies in these three areas hurt the interests of the poor and lo-income people.



Levon Chorbajian

Levon Chorbajian is Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he teaches courses on genocide, politics, and mass media. He has edited, translated, and written seven books including Armenia in Crisis; The Caucasian Knot; Studies in Comparative Genocide; The Making of Nagorno-Karabagh; and, most recently, Power: A Critical Reader with Daniel Egan. Dr. Chorbajian is a two-time Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Armenia.

ARF Media and its Coverage of the Protocols: A Content Analysis

The western sponsored Protocols claimed to lay to rest longstanding conflictual relations between Armenia and Turkey by opening the way to a new era of peaceful diplomatic and trade relations. Serious shortcomings of the agreements, however, led almost immediately to opposition both in Armenia and in the diaspora, and the leading, if not the sole, voice in this opposition was the ARF. This paper is an examination of ARF media in the U.S. to document the bases of its opposition. This research serves as a scholarly record of the public stances of the party at a critical juncture in the history of the Second Republic and may prove useful in confronting future variants of the Turkish-Armenian Protocols, which are not unreasonable to expect.



Viken Yacoubian

Dr. Viken Yacoubian is the director of the Institute for Multicultural Research and Development, and an adjunct professor of Psychology at Woodbury University. He earned his BA in Political Science from UCLA, MA in Counseling Psychology from Loyola Marymount University, and a PhD in counseling psychology from USC. His dissertation was titled “Assessment of Racial Identity and Self-Esteem in an Armenian American Population.” Dr. Yacoubian has published many articles, among them a seminal one on the effects of distant reactions to traumatic events, which is referenced as an important source in the American Psychiatric Association’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder section. The same article has also been referenced in a nationwide study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which explored the psychological effects of the 9/11 attack. His latest research titled “Forgiveness in the Context of the Armenian Experience” appeared in an edited book Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Psychological Pathways to Conflict Transformation and Peace Building in 2010 by Springer Press.

The Role of the ARF in the Ethno-racial Identity Development of Armenians in the Diaspora

Based on the existing research on ethnic and racial identity development of minorities, this presentation explores the unique Diasporic experience of Armenians and its impact on their ethno-racial identity formation. The operational assumption is that an intimate relationship exists between community infrastructures and the process through which ethno-racial identity is formed.  Therefore, it is in this context that the role of the ARF is examined, in terms of its contribution to creating the sociopolitical milieu in which the Diasporic ethno-racial identity is formed, as well as the nature of activism that emanates from such a milieu. Through a critical analysis of this process, the presentation draws conclusions about paradigmatic shifts and future directions.


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