Nation-building is Not a Spectator Sport

Maria Titizian


A friend who recently returned from abroad conveyed that many Armenians in the Diaspora are frustrated and fed-up with the shenanigans of our government. They are tired of hearing about corruption, monopolies, poor governance, rigged elections and an overall lack of vision and policy.

National pride it seems is eroding, after all, no one wants to be associated with a country that is failing its people and its potential. That frame of mind, if it is true, is not only troubling, it is also counter-productive to the work at hand. Living and working thousands of miles away from Armenia probably makes it much easier to disengage from the processes necessary for nation-building but no one said it was going to be easy.

And meantime in Armenia, the Soviet experience still continues to exact its damage on the very concept of statehood. The independence generation is trying to break free from those chains by devising, imagining and writing a new narrative. They are doing so in a vacuum, without guidance and leadership, without a compass or a historical experience of statehood. They don’t have the luxury of a healthy political discourse from which to draw upon and form their own personal beliefs; there is a distorted value system that places money and power ahead of integrity and honor; there is intolerance and bigotry everywhere.

Even in this conglomeration of skewed perceptions and systems, there is so much passion and sense of ownership among the new generation of activists in our country. I have the privilege of knowing and working with many of them. I often watch them with awe and amazement. Sometimes they are right on the mark in terms of their demands and actions and sometimes they are led astray by a lack of understanding. I told one young activist that I would die for her passion, but that she had to be able to differentiate between her desire for the collapse of this regime and the very concept of statehood.

When we reject the national anthem because we associate it with those who hold the levers of power, when we refuse to take part in the celebration of the 2795th anniversary of Yerevan because it was spearheaded by Taron Margaryan, a mayor we presumably do not accept, it means that something is skewed in our thinking. Taron Margaryan is NOT Yerevan…Yerevan is our capital city, a place where for the past 3000 years we have existed. Yerevan and the very concept of Yerevan is much greater than a temporary politician or apparatchik who happens to be mayor. And the very symbols of statehood – the national anthem, the flag, the coat of arms and the constitution are supreme and indefensible. They do not belong nor are they the property of the ruling Republican Party, they belong to all Armenians, everywhere.

In democracies, the government is the servant of the state. Thereby, there is an inherent difference between the government or the regime and the state or statehood. Regimes do not possess sovereignty (the state is sovereign) nor do they hold original authority (authority lies in the constitution). Rather they have derivative powers delegated by the state via its constitution. Any power that a regime or a government possesses therefore is delegated and limited and more importantly, temporary.

What we are seeing more and more is the blurring of this very important distinction both in Armenia and the Diaspora. We are failing to see that Armenian statehood or the State of Armenia is an absolute value, far greater and of more value than the current ruling regime. Perhaps the day we stop calling the Armenian government a regime is the day we can say we are on the path to enlightenment.

The national symbols of statehood – the anthem, flag, coat of arms – are what bind us to our history and heritage. They represent us as a collectivity, an entity with shared values and common goals. They are icons of our existence and represent who we are as a nation. They can never be usurped by a group of individuals, or a political force or a specific interest group. They belong to each and every one of us. Protecting and cherishing those symbols therefore falls on all of our shoulders.

What I fear is that this new generation of activists, or perhaps the more appropriate term for them is citizens of the Republic of Armenia, are so disenchanted with the regime, are so angry with the state of their lives, are so frustrated at the slow pace of change, that their very mission might go astray.

It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that they stay on message, that they differentiate who the so-called enemy is from the value of statehood. None of us living here in Armenia or in the Diaspora have the luxury of knowing how to govern ourselves within a sovereign state. We do not have the legacy, heritage and experience that would have given us the tools to ensure our survival and the very viability of our republic. It just means we have to work harder, be more patient, more adamant, more committed, less full of blame at each other and the region or the world. It means we have to roll up our sleeves, employ all of our energy and potential to make this experiment called Armenia work, after all, nation-building is not a spectator sport.


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  1. arziv said:

    rmenia is a nation. One must not get mesmerized with anglo saxon terminology such as “nation building” . Armenia does not need ” builiding”. As for those diasporans which feel frustrated, they need to come and settle in Armenia, and stop pontificating from their far away shores how things should be run in Armenia. Armenia should run as Armenia, not as a USA carbon copy entity, or a Germany, or some other ” nation builiding country in progres”. Our government is fine, sure there can be improvements, Armenian improvements, not USA or , Canadian made improvements. Our nation is belegueared and struggling for suvival, to keep body and soul together; we do not need polymorphic nostrums , and empty slogans of ” nation building”, ” diversity”, ” democracy” and other inane and toxic ideas imported from abroad. We do not have the urge to imitate the odars. It is undestandable that diasporans armenians might feel different. They are diasporans, their mind set is formed and shaped in accordance to the country they hail from. They should embrace the motherland as it is, and if they do not like it, then stay where you are but lend tour wholehearted support to the Armenians struggling and fighting to keep the ancestral homeland sovereign , independent. and united.

    • gabe korajian said:

      I fully support and agree with Maria Titizian’s article on Nation Building and acknowledge that Nation Building is not a spectator’s sport but rather, a serious job that requires skills, devotion, honesty, vision, efficient and corrupt free provision of government services to its citizens. Since I was raised and educated in Ethiopia, I would like to use Emperor Menelik as a practical example because he was a visionary leader who implemented a Nation Building program in an African country over 100 years ago. He invited prominent advisers from European countries who were responsible for introducing western style bureaucracy to Ethiopia.
      The story goes like this….. In the process of Nation Building, to create a tax base for the government, Emperor Menelik levied property tax on the farmers as well as residents of small towns and villages. Although the amounts levied were very small, citizens took to the streets and protested against the new tax law. The public revolted in thousands by going to the palace to convey their grievances to the monarch. When the Emperor saw and heard a large crowd shouting and protesting in the palace compounds, he was very upset. He sent his advisers to address the crowd and tell them that in fact he has doubled the taxes because of their unacceptable behavior. The crowd went on shouting louder than before. The Emperor, disillusioned once again with the behavior of the protesters, doubled the taxes once again. When the citizens learned that they were not being heard by the Emperor, but in fact the levies on taxes had quadrupled from the original amount, they left the palace compounds in silence. At that point, Menelik was taken aback and came to the realization that if the public remains silent, it is very dangerous and thus a failure of leadership. He asked his advisers to go and call the crowd back to the palace, at which point he abolished all taxes. The logic behind this was, as Emperor puts it later to his advisers…If the public stops raising its voice and becomes totally silent, it is a very dangerous. This is what has happened in Armenia today…The people are not interested any more in what is happening in the country including the building of a nation. They have given up and have become apathetic and indifferent to any form of abuse by the current government of Armenia. … As Menelik puts it, this state of silence is very dangerous and worrisome. That is why we witness the exodus of Armenians from the motherland in unusually large numbers. Almost everyone you speak with in this small nation wants to get out and leave the country at any cost and at any opportunity. The Diaspora is disengaging more and more from the motherland. In a nut-shell, as Maria describes in her article, Armenians have chosen to stay silent and become spectators. Dangerous! Dangerous and once again this is a very dangerous attitude. ! Any Armenian with some common sense should be very worried about the state of our nation. More precisely, we can openly declare that our leaders in Armenia are not engaged in Nation Building but on the contrary, a “Nation Destruction” process, exactly the opposite of what Nation Building is all about. President Sargsyan and his cronies should realize that things cannot go on like this much longer and understand that SILENCE of its Citizens should not interpreted as victory. The end is in sight! They should wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late. If Menelik could do a good job in Nation Building 100 years ago where resources in the continent of Africa were in limited supply, I am sure our leaders can do better at a time where resources of all kinds are in abundance.

  2. Artoush said:

    Zarouhi Postanjyan should read your article so that she will be more careful what she sais while representing Armenia in any foregin country. Shame on her.

  3. George said:

    Of course Armenia is not a democracy. It is a republic. It is a nation of laws, albeit no one follows them. If it were a democracy, a term many confuse to be a good thing while in reality it is basically mob rule, then the majority could make any law they want without any checks or balances whatsoever. Our rights our not democratic, they are constitutional. I had to learn this outside of school as American public school teachers always stress democracy without ever explaining what it means. Terminology is important to understand before claiming Armenia needs to be more democratic.

  4. Avetis said:

    Democracy is a very flawed political system. Democracy can only be practiced by nations that have deeply rooted national institutions, a well conditioned populace and only a tidy number of homegrown political parties – and only then with limits.

  5. said:

    Our nation is not being built it’s being demolished with 25,000-50,000 emigrants leaving Armenia every month.

  6. said:

    Armenia is already a nation, nothing there to build. The problem is its demise.

  7. john said:,

    It’s amazing how constant complaining, negativism and lethargy has become such a life credo with likes of you. pathetic.

  8. pathetic situationian said:


    Complaints are warranted. Armenia is a sinking ship. Corruption. Murder. Thievery. WTF??? First Christian Nation. HILARIOUS. People are leaving because their lives suck. PERIOD. The jackasses running the country think they are big fish. They’ll be crapping in their diapers when the Turks and Azeris launch their troops and crush them. Instead of building Armenia, the dirtbag leaders are destroying it.

    And…the idiot diaspora keeps raising and sending money life fools to the government who is stealing it. THE DIASPORA SHOULD PLACE SANCTIONS ON THE ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT UNTIL IT CHANGES. PERIOD. NO MONEY. JUST LIKE IRAN, UNTIL THE LEADERSHIP SNAPS. That is the only way to get these dirtbags out. OUT OUT OUT.

    I cry for Armenia. I cry for its future. Armenia is an example of how NOT to run a nation.


    Whoever can leave is leaving. Nobody wants to stay. The Turks and Azeris never thought their jobs of finishing off Armenians would be SO EASY.

    THE FIRST CHRISTIAN NATION. LMAO. Learn from Japan who takes care of its people. Armenia’s dirtbag leaders are worse than 3rd world, corrupt, ruthless, African dictators.


  9. pathetic situationian said:

    TO MARIA TITIZIAN’S COMMENT: “None of us living here in Armenia or in the Diaspora have the luxury of knowing how to govern ourselves within a sovereign state. We do not have the legacy, heritage and experience that would have given us the tools to ensure our survival and the very viability of our republic.”

    WITH ALL DUE RESPECT MS. TITIZIAN, does Armenia does need to have “legacy, heritage and experience” to know that it can’t STEAL AND KILL ITS CITIZENS? That statement is ludicrous and an excuse to accept things as they are and as they will always be.

    And, with all due respect again, we have very intelligent and experienced folks in the Diaspora who can turn the nation around if allowed and if everyone plays fair over in Armenia. One of them is in your country RAFFI HOVANISSIAN who will never be able to do anything as long as dirty oligarchs are in control.

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