The security and future of our two Armenian Nations have always been intertwined, most recently from the Karabakh movement which sparked the liberation and Independence of Armenia and Artsakh, to the early and difficult years of that Independence filled with war, political intrigue and treachery, and now going forward and making sure to avoid the mistakes of the past to build a brighter future while remembering and honoring the sacrifices of the many fallen and surviving heroes who secured the dual Independent Armenian republics…
BY GARO R. MADENLIAN
On September 21, 1991, just a few short weeks after Artsakh announced its independence, Armenia followed suit and declared the same, reestablishing an independent republic after 71 difficult years of soviet oppression.
At the time, the Soviet Union was crumbling, Azerbaijan was at war with Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, and Turkey was supporting the Azeri Turks by imposing a blockade (still in place today) of landlocked Armenia in an attempt to strangle the small Christian nation.
During this time, many brave Armenian men and women, including some from the diaspora, remained on the front lines defending Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan’s attacks and indiscriminate bombings of the peaceful population, while still liberating strategically important and historic Armenian territories to safeguard the people of Artsakh and Armenia.
In fact, Artsakh’s independence provided, and continues to guarantee Armenia’s safety and security from its war mongering neighbor to the East, who until today desires to wipe out Yerevan to join a new Turkish empire… Artsakh was and remains Armenia’s Stalingrad, and as the “azadamardigs” would regularly say, the first step towards a unified Armenia!
It was under these difficult conditions that Armenia held its referendum when an overwhelming majority of more than 99% of the population voted “YES” in favor of independence. Amidst war, blockade, famine, and still recovering from a devastating earthquake, the people of Armenia were elated and excited, a new hope for a better future, an independence based on democratic principles grounded in social equality and free from oppression, unification with Artsakh, and an eye for justice for the Armenian Genocide.
Unfortunately, the excitement quickly faded as Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter Petrosyan (LTP) attempted to broker a deal to give up Armenia’s just claims for reparations for the Armenian Genocide and for Artsakh to remain under Azerbaijani rule, in return for Turkey’s agreement to open its border and end the blockade… meanwhile corruption skyrocketed in this new Armenia where LTP was creating an autocratic regime; he trampled on the principles of democracy by attempting to silence critics and opposition voices; his main target became the ARF, first expelling the ARF chairman n the even of it World Congress and later banning the Party, seizing its offices and properties… setting the tone for the future until he was eventually forced to resign.
But the people endured, Hope for the future was reborn and national pride flourished as Artsakh’s independence was secured, and Armenia slowly became a modern developing country with growing agricultural, tech and tourism industries… despite the ongoing blockade by Turkey, despite the continuous attacks by Azerbaijan, and despite LTP and his followers’ efforts.
The key now is to maintain individual liberties and democratic principles with a national agenda inclusive of Artsakh and reparations for the genocide; expand and grow the economy so that people can prosper, and live comfortably and freely; strengthen the educational system with a sound curriculum inclusive of national principles; ensure the well-being of the population by guaranteeing basic necessities such as healthcare and retirement; enhance and develop the military to defend against violent aggressor neighbors; build and solidify national unity especially regarding these national agenda items; and to make sure to never return to the past flawed policies of LTP under any circumstance, even if disguised again as another new Armenia.
Garo Madenlian is a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western U.S. Central Committee