Armenia’s 20th Anniversary: A Young Republic; an Ancient Nation

Harut Sassounian


Armenians worldwide had many reasons to celebrate the month of September, as they observed the 20th anniversary of the twin Republics of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).

Two decades ago, Armenians did not have a single independent Republic. Now they have two, and look forward to the day when the two republics are joined by a third — Western Armenia — to form the Republic of United Armenia!

On Sept. 19-20, the Diaspora Ministry organized a Pan-Armenian conference in Yerevan that drew over 500 participants from 50 countries, along with political and religious leaders from Armenia and Artsakh. It was a reunion of Who’s Who of the Armenian world.

The conference had four main themes: language and education, youth issues, commemorating the centennial of the Genocide, and strengthening Armenia-Diaspora relations. Some speakers took this opportunity to point out the serious shortcomings that continue to plague Armenia 20 years after independence.

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, singled out emigration from Armenia as the greatest national crisis. “Our enemies wished to see an Armenia devoid of Armenians,” he stated. “Today, we are emptying Armenia with our own hands!” His Holiness also condemned the prevalent “corruption” in the country that protects “a prosperous minority.”

Tashnag Party leader, Hrant Markarian, chided government officials for the persistence of poverty, joblessness, stagnant economy, social insecurity, injustice, criminal behavior, corruption, and emigration. He also criticized them for not withdrawing their signature from the “infamous Armenia-Turkey Protocols.”

During the panel on the Armenian Genocide — I was one of the moderators — the participants suggested training a new generation of Genocide scholars, Ottoman language specialists, Turkologists, and international law experts. They emphasized that the time had come to demand reparations from Turkey rather than mere genocide recognition and urged filing lawsuits against Turkey in international and national courts.

While in Armenia, I experienced many exhilarating moments as well as a few disappointing ones. The military parade on Independence Day was the highlight for all Armenians worldwide — watching it at Yerevan’s Republic Square or on television! The goose-step march of highly disciplined soldiers and display of sophisticated tanks, missiles, warplanes and helicopter gunships filled every Armenian with pride and a sense of security from menacing neighbors! Later that evening, hundreds of thousands of spectators were captivated by a special high-tech laser show that projected scenes from Armenian history on the facade of buildings overlooking Republic Square.

The four locally-manufactured Armenian drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), displayed for the first time during this year’s military parade, drew the most attention, especially since the Artsakh forces had just downed a drone Azerbaijan had purchased from Israel! The parade held yet another surprise — a contingent of women soldiers with machine guns who had volunteered to join the exclusively male Armenian armed forces! Also marching was a contingent of military chaplains in clerical garb.

Two other developments added a special luster to the celebrations of independence. The Mesrob Mashdots Madenataran in Yerevan, the depository of ancient manuscripts, unveiled a massive new wing, funded mostly by Russian-Armenian entrepreneur Sergei Hampartsoumian. On this occasion, Mihran Minassian, a humble man of limited means from Aleppo, Syria, donated to the Madenataran over 10,000 priceless manuscripts and fragments he had collected through his life-long efforts.

A second momentous event in September was the opening of a state of the art terminal at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport. The new complex can serve up to 3.5 million passengers annually, doubling the airport’s capacity. This important project was brought to fruition by industrialist Eduardo Eurnekian of Argentina who controls “Armenia International Airports,” the concessional management firm overseeing the airport.

Two sour notes: Some of the Independence Day t-shirts handed out to participants of the Pan-Armenian Conference carried a surprising “Made in Turkey” label! The t-shirts were embossed with the following slogan in Armenian: “2011: Armenia is You!” Embarrassed officials explained that the t-shirts were donated by a local businessman!

More embarrassing was the no-show of the two former Presidents of Armenia at any of the Independence Day celebrations. Regardless of the reasons for their absence, this was a serious mistake by the two heads of state who had led the Republic of Armenia for 17 of its 20 years of independence!

Despite all of its shortcomings, all Armenians fervently embrace their homeland with a solemn pledge to defend and protect it, and do their utmost to secure the well-being and prosperity of their compatriots in Armenia and Artsakh!

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  1. Sarkis said:

    I was not invited, no one I knew was invited. In protest, Mr. Sassounian should not have attended too.

    • manooshag said:

      Sarkis, the leadership of Armenia today does not recognize the existence of the Armenian diasporans…. to join with our homeland of Armenia – for that would be bringing all Armenians, from all over the world UNITED. It serves such leaderships to continue a divisiveness for their own convoluted, unpatriotic and, too, their own cohorts self-seeking advancements. Such a separation is also against all that the Diasporans have to offer to advance the lives of the citizenry of our Haiastan. Beginning withe likes of a Ter Pedrossian (now seeking a comeback (must be in need of more monies/assets as he stole from Haiastansis until ‘kicked’ out of office. He became the ‘pattern’ for the leadershis that have followed him… fill your own and cohorts pockets and to hell with the due and owing benefits for the our Armenian citizenry!!

  2. Satenik said:

    Long Live Armenia ! I am sure that Armenia will go from strenght to strenght . Armenians are highly intelligent people and they will overcome the many problems that face them and then will enjoy a peaceful and fruitful living in Armenia! Amen!

  3. Hrant (Din) K. said:

    Sarkis, my friend and brother, it’s not about who’s invited or not, it’s about where you are

    headed!! Our Homeland doesn’t need to invite 8.3 Million Armenians from the Spuirk in addition

    to 3.5 Millions from Armenia and 200,000 from Artsakh and 1/2 a Million from Djavaghk!! Don’t

    join the Circle of Turf Wars like the 2 ex Presidents! Think positive and BIG … …. ….. !!!!!!!

  4. manooshag said:

    When honest and dedicated patriots are elected to the leaderships of our homeland, Haiastan, then our peoples will be more inclined to return and to live and work for the advancement our ancient and advanced homeland… Getzeh Haiastan!!